Question: If my husband and I have a bad night, I seem to be worse off the next morning. What gives? Do women need more sleep than men?
Answer: YES!! When it comes to sleep, men and women are not created equal.
According to leading sleep experts Dr Jim Horne, Edward Suarez and Michael Breus women need about 20 minutes more sleep than men do and women do far worse after sleep deprivation.
The day after poor sleep, women are more prone to low mood, inattention and angry outbursts. Clinical Psychologist Michael Breus, sleep expert at Duke University explained: "We found that women had more depression, women had more anger, and women had more hostility early in the morning." So that’s why it's better if hubby makes the coffee…
Breus colleague Dr Edward Suarez launched his research to try and find out why in previous studies women who suffered from sleep deprivation were far more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
A few rationales are offered by the sleep experts.
1. Women and men have differing levels of sex hormones. Men have higher levels of testosterone which is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties. So men when exposed to stress (poor night's sleep followed by a demanding day of work) secrete testosterone which dampens the effects of stress hormones and mops up CRP (a protein that indicates the bodies response to stress). In turn, women with higher levels of testosterone will cope better with sleep deficit compared to their counterparts.
2. Women use their brains more and thus, need more rest. Gender studies have shown that women use more of their brain everyday than men. This is attributed to the way women think and complete daily activities. Women appear to multi-task and use more mental flexibility to complete daily tasks (... yes we work out the grocery list while we brush our teeth while we pack our handbag...that's just how we roll!) But, this busy-ness means that there is more mess to clean up in our brains while we sleep. In turn, men who have complex jobs that require problem-solving and mental energy expenditure will require more sleep than their counterparts.
3. Women undergo huge physiological changes over their lifetime. A woman’s physiology is in a continual state of variation. From puberty, through pregnancy and into menopause a woman’s body is hit with hormone surges and dips and this can impact sleep quality. Period pain that interrupts a solid night’s sleep; a heavy, preggy belly that causes a woman to run to the loo eight times a night; a hot flash that forces its owner to change her pyjamas..and bedding… this all adds up to a woman being 20% more likely to develop a sleep disorder than her man.