While everyone should strive to get adequate sleep, a recent study from Duke University has shown that sleep deprivation may be more dangerous for women than for men leading to the theory that women need more sleep.
Women, the researchers on the study concluded, experience more physical and mental consequences from a lack of rest. The study’s findings could have implications for health recommendations for women, especially those who are at greater risk for heart disease and various mental illnesses.
Led by sleep expert and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, the study measured the effects of insufficient rest on men and women.
“We found that for women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress, and greater feelings of hostility, depression and anger. In contrast, these feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men,” said one researcher on the study in a recent press release(1).
“This is the first empirical evidence that supports what we have observed about the role of gender and its effects upon sleep and health.”
Women with high levels of sleep disruption also showed high levels of c-reactive protein and interleukin-6, measures of inflammation which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Who Needs How Much Sleep?
There are many biological factors that go into determining how much sleep an individual needs. However, many experts believe that it comes down to how much mental energy you expend each day – and women, they believe, are expending more than men hence why women need more sleep.
“One of the major functions of sleep is to allow the brain to recover and repair itseld,” said Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Center and Loughborough University in England, in a recent interview with The Australian(2).
“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.”
Promoting Good “Sleep Hygiene”
While the average American adult tends to need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, many say that they don’t regularly meet this quota.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, if you’re struggling to get enough sleep, it’s important to practice good “sleep hygiene” – habits that will help promote better quality sleep.
Some of these habits include:
- avoiding daytime naps longer than 30 minutes;
- stimulants such as caffeine close to bedtime;
- getting enough exercise;
- having adequate exposure to natural light;
- and associating your bed with sleep rather than with wakeful activities like watching TV or reading(3).