It’s been known for ages that women and men have different physical needs, and one critical area where the sexes differ is their need for sleep. As a recent study conducted by England’s Loughborough University Sleep Research Center has confirmed, women need more sleep than men do. Why? Because the brains of women tend to work harder during waking hours.
The study, which was conducted on a sample of 210 middle-aged men and women, indicated that without extra sleep, women’s brains have a harder time repairing and recovering from the day. Sleep deprived women were also found to be more prone to becoming hostile, angry, depressed, and psychologically distressed compared to men who had gotten the same amount of rest. In short, women’s brains take longer to wind down and disengage from everything they deal with on a daily basis.
This is no slight towards men, but these results are hardly surprising. Women often act as caretakers, household earners, plus they are typically the nurturers of their family and friends. Men can do all of these things just as well as women do, but our society doesn’t place that expectation on them. As a result of having a fuller plate, women become more physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted as the day wears on. When women are pregnant or nursing, the need for sleep increases even more.
The Science Behind The Results
It was discovered years ago that insomnia is more common in women than men, and women suffer more physically and mentally when they lack sleep. This is due primarily to the fact that women undergo more hormonal changes throughout their lifetimes, from puberty through the end of life stages. Throw the raging hormones of pre and post-pregnancy – not to mention the physical discomforts – into the equation and it becomes clear why so many women have trouble getting rest. Other conditions that women suffer from more often than men include anxiety, restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, and depression. Many scientists think that lack of sleep can also contribute to the development of these and other illnesses in women.
1. Sleep And Women’s Quality Of Life
Many men, especially those who are married, have heard the expressions “Happy wife, happy life”, and “If mom isn’t happy, no one is happy.” An essential part of making women happy, apparently, is getting enough sleep each night. A well-rested woman is not only more alert and focused, but less irritable and anxious. The same can be said for men, which is why establishing a sleep pattern that allows for adequate rest is so important for both genders.
So, how much extra sleep do women need? The study revealed that as little as 20 extra minutes of rest each night can greatly benefit women. If you doubt that squeezing in an extra 20 minutes of sleep will do much good, consider these factors.
2. Many Women Don’t Get Enough Sleep
The extra 20 minutes of sleep that women need compared to men pertains to adults who already get enough rest each night. If you’re running off of 5 hours or less sleep each day, have an erratic sleep pattern, or are an insomniac, your first goal should be to rest at least six hours per night. Once you’ve achieved this, try to work in an extra 20 minutes whenever possible. Talk to your partner about your body and brain’s need for sleep, and see if he can cover you for 20 minutes in the morning and assist with morning chores or watching the children. While you can opt to hit the snooze button, to get the most benefit from your extra rest it’s best to have it be uninterrupted. Therefore, setting your alarm a few minutes later is preferable.
3. Sleep Is Restorative
When the brain rests, the body is then able to repair and heal itself, as well as recover from the various stresses of the day. Our brains form memories while sleeping, process huge amounts of information, and regulate the body’s hormones as well. When women fail to get enough sleep, they often feel fatigued and experience a down mood. Mental fogginess and decreased alertness are also problems among women who don’t get enough rest each night. An additional 20 minutes of sleep can go a long way towards helping women’s brains and bodies perform at their best.
4. Sleep Deprivation And Weight Gain
Men tend to lose weight more easily than women, and that’s especially true of women who don’t get adequate rest. There’s also a correlation between obesity and insomnia, as overweight and obese women are less likely to get enough sleep each night. Cortisol, the stress hormone that the brain releases in greater quantities when it’s sleep-deprived, has a role in weight gain. The more cortisol that’s released, the higher one’s appetite tends to be — it’s definitely a vicious cycle. Ghrelin is another hormone that the body releases more of when it is tired. By contrast, the production of leptin, a hormone that decreases the appetite, is slowed down when women don’t get enough nightly rest.
5. Rest Prevents Stress
Getting to a point where they can soundly sleep enough hours each night dramatically increases women’s quality of life and health. For women to feel more relaxed during the day, they must get some much-needed downtime at night. This may require re-arranging nightly chores or duties, or even leaving worries to think about in the morning rather than stewing over it all night and missing out on shut-eye. Women who have difficulty calming down before bedtime and allowing themselves to rest can try meditation or relaxation techniques. Starting calming rituals before bed, such as having a warm bath or cup of caffeine-free tea, can also help. Of course, it goes without saying that having the best mattress and a good pillow will aid in restful shut-eye.
If you find that you are unable to maintain a steady sleep pattern, it’s best to talk to your doctor. Sleep deprivation is the cause of many chronic illnesses, both physical and mental, and your hormones may be off-balance due to not getting enough rest for years on end.