A new sleep study conducted worldwide finds that sleep averages are vastly different among men and women—and where you live.

Despite different time zones and inherent cultural differences between nations across the world, everyone has the same need for a good night's sleep. But a new international study reveals that an average night's sleep is very different for people living on different continents; while healthy sleep is increasingly becoming an issue for Americans, it turns out we're leading the globe in getting enough sleep routinely. According to the study, which was published in the journal Sleep Medicine and involved more than 250,000 data points generated while observing sleep, people living in Europe and North America enjoyed the most sleep compared to those living in Asia, where a good night's sleep is much shorter on average

But researchers at the University of Helsinki also found that one gender was employing better sleep practices than another. After observing more than 17,000 people between the ages of 16 and 30 years old, they found that young women were sleeping more than their male counterparts, and actively heading to bed at earlier times, too. "Geographical differences were relatively small but similar to those seen in prior, smaller-scale studies…But differences arise in terms of the time reserved for sleeping," Liisa Kuula, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki who is also a lead author of the study, said in a press release. The same study established that younger people are more likely to head to bed at later hours in the evening and past midnight, but Kuula noted that women were more likely to reverse this trend as they aged, working to establish a healthy sleep routine that followed a conventional "early to bed, early to rise" approach. 

Woman sleeping in bed in sunlight
Credit: Westend61 / Getty Images

Researchers established their findings after outfitting their subjects with Polar Electro devices that measure sleep with accelerometers, and the data is now being used in further research and initiatives across the globe. But the study serves as an important reminder for younger adults that a healthy sleep routine is essential for good health, and could inspire health professionals to close the gap between men and women in terms of sleep habits. 

More than 70 million adults in America experience some kind of sleep disorder, sleep apnea, or chronic sleep deprivation, according to the American Sleep Association. While some pre-existing medical conditions could influence your quality of sleep, going to bed very late and not sleeping between seven and nine hours each night is the largest contributor to sleep-related disorders overall. A lack of sleep clearly affects your productivity over the work day, but it also can lead to complications with your immunity, hypertension, and cardiovascular health, too. Teens and young adults—both women and men—should focus on creating a healthy sleep environment and fostering a solid sleep schedule to best avoid these issues in their 30s and beyond.


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