Scientists discover that women really do need more sleep than men

In most households, it’s the wife and mother who generally sleeps later and wakes up earlier than the rest of the family. However, scientists at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina discover that women need more sleep compared to men.

Sleep deprivation does not only cause women to feel grumpy in the mornings—it can actually lead to mental and physical health issues somewhere down the line. It has long been established that sleep deprivation leads to higher risk of heart disease, depression, compromised performance, etc. This is true for both men and women. However, these consequences appear to be even more pronounced among women, unlike men whose state of health does not appear to be closely linked to the amount of sleep they receive.

In clinical studies, women who log less than the optimal amount of rest every night were found to have extra clotting factors in their blood, which significantly increases the possibility of stroke. Lab exams also indicated higher inflammation markers which can indicate a wide range of developing health problems including cancer, diabetes, etc. On a less sinister but no less bothersome aspect, inflammation markers are strongly associated with pain perception. (If you are a woman who somehow wakes up feeling aches and body pains all over, you may need to take a step back and spend more time in your memory foam bed—it’s not just your imagination or your reluctance to face yet another busy day.)

Men who are sleep deprived showed no increased risk for these health problems. Sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, who is one of the doctors who worked on this research, reports that the female subjects had more depression, anger and hostility early in the morning. While this is not something new (hence the abundance of jokes and memes on the Internet depicting the stereotype of women who are monsters until they’ve had their coffee), these findings prove that there is something more than just personality quirks at fault here: female biology really is to blame.

His advice: women should really get enough sleep.

If there simply isn’t enough time during the night, then try to offset your sleep debt by taking strategic naps during the day. However, he warns that daytime naps should either be just 25 minutes long, or 90 minutes long, else you will just feel groggy upon waking up. The key to waking up feeling energized rather than sluggish is proper timing. 25 minutes is short enough so that you don’t fall into deep sleep; while 90 minutes is the length of one entire sleep cycle.

Duke University’s findings support similar conclusions forwarded by one of Britain’s leading authorities on sleep science. The Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University in England have earlier claimed that with all else being equal, women need around 20 minutes more sleep than men. This is because female thought patterns (with its propensity for multi-tasking) usually taxes the brain more, especially the cortex which is responsible for thought, memory, language, etc. Professor Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre explains that the more you use your brain during the day, the more it needs to recover. And this is the major function of quality sleep.

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