From Wake up to sleep Blog: Resmed.com April 28, 2016
FACT or FICTION: Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?
New research shows that, yes, perhaps women do need more sleep than men, but why? And, more importantly, how much more sleep do women need? Throughout this post, we’ll dive into this fascinating U.K. study to uncover the answers and share them with you.
Do women use their brains more than men?
Multi-tasking can be mentally and emotionally draining, but could it also be the reason women need more sleep than men? According to researchers at the Loughborough University U.K.-based Sleep Research Center, women do use their brains more than men – so much more so that, yes, they do require more sleep. In an interview with the New York Post, the director of the U.K. Sleep Research Center, Jim Horne, explains:
“Women’s brains are wired differently, so their sleep need will be slightly greater. 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,” Horne says.
A matter of time…
News outlets that reported on this story yielded hundreds of thousands of shares, tweets and likes on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn–so clearly people are interested, and as they should be! Sleeplessness strongly affects what is known as “higher executive function,” which is controlled by the portions of our brains responsible for intellect and decision-making, and this part of your brain also plays a major role in managing emotions and behavior.
“Despite the large number of sleep loss studies that have been undertaken, these aspects of sleepiness are not so well understood, which is the reason why we’ve been investigating this topic over the last 10 years, or so,” Horne explains.
He notes in the study’s introduction a fact many of us know to be a huge hindrance to good sleep: Whether it’s shift-work, too much screen time at night, or simply cramming too much into the day, this, among other factors, all affects our ability to snag the right amount of shut-eye. Modern-day society seems to encourage us to maximize every second of the day which can be a detriment to our natural sleep cycles.
Another curious result of the study showed sleepiness in women presents a bit differently than sleepiness in men, which is what inspired the U.K. researchers to dig a little deeper into this nuance to uncover insights. Horne’s team studied this phenomenon with 210 middle-aged men and women and found that poor sleep is more associated with high levels of distress, hostility, depression and irritability in women. Oddly enough, these symptoms of poor sleep were not as intense in men, according to Horne.
How much more sleep do women require?
The recent study is interesting because it showed “gendered” differences in how women’s complex brain function compares to men. Now, we assume that there’ll be a few moms, girlfriends and wives out there saying to their partners, “See? I told you so!” And now you have some actual data to back up your sleep rallying cry. But, here’s the million-dollar question: How much more sleep do women need? Horne notes it can be as little as 20 minutes or more. So, go ahead ladies, enjoy that extra sleep!