A huge amount of knowledge about sleep has accumulated during the last 5 decades following the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Nevertheless, there are numerous areas of considerable ignorance. One of these concerns the particularities of sleep in women. Most basic and clinical studies have been performed in male subjects, and only very recently research groups around the world have addressed women's sleep in health and disease. In this review, we summarize the present knowledge on the influence of oestrogens on the brain and on the distinctive changes of sleep across the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy and menopause. In addition, studies in female rodents are reviewed as well as the knowledge on female peculiarities regarding the interactions between sleep regulation and age-related changes in circadian rhythms. We also address specific aspects of sleep loss and sleep disorders in women. Finally, very recent studies on the sociology of sleep are summarized and future directions in the field are discussed.