Duke University scientists find women need more sleep than men. If the woman in your life woke up grumpy this morning, don’t be too hard on her. It is, apparently, only natural. Scientists say women suffer more than men, both mentally and physically, if they are forced to skimp on their sleep. As well as a higher risk of heart disease, depression and psychological problems, sleep-deprived women have extra clotting factors in their blood, which can lead to a stroke.
–Dreamin’ of a matriarchal society… Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images
They also have higher inflammation markers, which indicate developing health problems.
As inflammation markers are also linked to pain, sleep expert Dr Michael Breus explained that women can literally be in more pain when they wake up.
If this sounds like someone you know, it can probably be blamed on sleep deprivation and the fact that women are particularly susceptible to the effects. What does Dr Breus advise?
If you don’t manage to get enough sleep at night, try taking strategic naps.
However, he warned that those naps should be either 25 minutes or 90 minutes long.
This is not the first time experts have suggested that women need more sleep than men.
One of Britain’s leading authorities on sleep found that women actually need 20 minutes more shut-eye. This is because of the female multi-tasking brain.
“One of the major functions of sleep is to allow the brain to recover and repair itself,” said Professor Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, England.
“During deep sleep, the cortex – the part of the brain responsible for thought, memory, language and so on – disengages from the senses and goes into recovery mode.
“The more of your brain you use during the day, the more of it that needs to recover and, consequently, the more sleep you need.
“Women tend to multi-task – they do lots at once and are flexible – and so they use more of their actual brain than men do. Because of that, their sleep need is greater.
“A man who has a complex job that involves a lot of decision-making and lateral thinking may also need more sleep than the average male – though probably still not as much as a woman.”
Apart from causing ‘sleepiness’, sleep loss particularly affects the more subtle forms of human behavior known as higher ‘executive’ function, largely controlled by the prefrontal cortex – a brain region at its most advanced in humans. It is the hardest working part of the cortex during wakefulness – which may be why it seems so vulnerable to sleep loss. Here, sleep loss effects include: rigid thinking, reduced verbal fluency, perseveration, impaired working memory, inability to deal with novelty and the unexpected, and less inhibited social behavior.
Contemporary ’24/7′ society requires many people to work with sleep loss, whether this be through shift-work, long working hours or simply from late night socializing.
“Women’s brains are wired differently … so their sleep need will be slightly greater,” professor Jim Horne, the former director of the research center, said. ‘Women tend to multitask — they do lots at once and are flexible — and so they use more of their actual brain than men do.”
Horne debunked the myth that women’s tendency to sleep longer is not due to any fault of their own. Instead, the extended sleep may be due to the fact that women experience a slower-wave sleep, “and a sign of their having greater brain recovery during sleep, which in turn indicates that women tend to work their cerebral cortices harder than does the age-related man, Horne said in an email to Entrepreneur.