Do women need more sleep than men?
If you’ve been reading the medical news lately, you may have noticed that there seems to be a lot of hype around the alleged story that women actually need more sleep than men.
This little snippet of news has even been featured on memes on Facebook!
Well, it has incited it’s own little battle of the sexes – and a lot of people are wondering exactly what the truth is regarding this so-called ‘rumor’.
Is it true? Do women actually need more sleep than men? Or is this a misunderstanding/exaggeration?
Well, we researched it – and you may be surprised to learn that it is, indeed, true!
The sad truth about our modern culture is that most people would probably prefer to get more sleep than they do. Granted, in our busy day-to-day lives, there often isn’t enough extra time in the day to catch a nap or to sleep in – which leaves a lot of people (male and female) sleep deprived from the get-go.
But, as it turns out, women might suffer a bit more for it than men.
In fact, a U.S. commentator named Arianna Huffington recently declared women’s sleep ‘the next feminist issue’.
And according to a leading sleep expert from Britain, Dr. Jim Horne, this problem is more real than a lot of people believe. According to his research, women, on average, need about 20 more minutes of sleep every night than their male counterparts.
Jim Horne was the director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University back in 2010. He also wrote ‘Sleepfaring: A Journey Through The Science Of Sleep’.
But why? Why would women need more sleep than men?
Why women need more sleep than men
One of the most important functions of sleep is to allow the brain to repair itself. It uses sleep as a recovery/rest tool. During sleep, the cortex disengages and goes into what specialists call a ‘recovery’ mode.
This is the part of the brain that’s responsible for functions like memory, language, etc. But the important thing to understand is that a person who uses more of their brain during the day requires more recovery time overnight.
In other words, people who use more of their brains need more sleep.
That brings us to the female brain. Females tend to do a lot of multitasking where their cortex is concerned. Much more, in fact, than males. This means that they are using more of their brain, on average, than the average man is.
The truth is that women’s brains are simply wired a bit differently. Men who perform extremely complex brain-centered functions during their day-to-day lives (such as at work in some types of vocations) might use a similar amount of their brain – but probably still not as much as the average woman does.
The big problem here, though, is that women tend not to get as much sleep as their male counterparts – which is a bit of a negative double-whammy where brain health is concerned.
What can be done about it?
The difference in the amount of sleep men and women need is really only about 20 minutes. Women, on average, need about 20 more minutes of sleep per day than men. This, obviously, adds up to 140 minutes per week, or just over 2 hours.
As you can imagine, this could really start to add up for women who get just as much sleep as their male counterparts – much less for women who don’t get as much.
Some women suffer from a greater lack of sleep because of social and/or maternal responsibilities. They may be more likely to get up to take care of a crying baby, for example, if they are breastfeeding. They also might wake up easier from noises caused by their surroundings, as women have been shown to sleep lighter than men.
To help keep this extra sleep need from becoming a problem, it might be beneficial for couples to acknowledge that this difference is important, and for women to make sure that they get adequate amounts of sleep. This might mean going to bed a bit earlier, or sleeping in just a little more than usual.