Ladies, do you feel you need more sleep than your male counterparts? You’re right. According to research carried out at the Sleep Research Center at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, a woman’s brain needs more sleep to recover than a man’s. How much more? According to their research – about 20 minutes. So if you’re hitting the sack at the same time as your mate, you’re depriving your body of 140 minutes of sleep over a week’s period. A 20-minute short fall really compounds over weeks to months.
Why do women need more sleep?
According to researchers, women multi-task more than men and put more “wear and tear” on their brain. This means their brain needs more time to recover through sleep. Men are hardwired to focus in on their job whereas women not only have to deal with work but family issues as well. This makes them superb multitaskers. The harder your brain is made to work by multitasking, the more recovery time it needs, and sleep offers the only opportunity for most people’s brains to recover.
Unfortunately, women experience sleep problems more frequently than men and are more likely to suffer from insomnia. The multitasking issue may be to blame here too. Some women have a difficult time turning off their brain when it comes time to sleep and spend time they should be sleeping planning the next day’s activities.
Hormonal changes likely play a role in sleep problems in women. Women have more difficulty sleeping around the time of their periods and during pregnancy due to fluctuations in the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. Menopause is another time insomnia rears its ugly head as hot flushes and night sweats interfere with sleep.
Why is this important?
Research shows the importance of getting an adequate amount of sleep for mental and physical health. Sleeping less than six hours a night has been linked with a greater risk of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and premature death from all causes. Sleep does more than help the brain recovery. It alters levels of hormones like cortisol that suppress immunity and contribute to weight gain.
Make sleep a priority
It’s easy to become so focused on getting things done that sleep is put on the backburner. Big mistake. You’ll accomplish more if you make sleep a priority. In research studies where participants are deprived of sleep they feel tired and less alert, but if they continue to skimp on sleep the awareness of being tired diminishes. They’re operating at a lower level without being aware of it. If you’re not getting adequate sleep, your mental and physical performance may be less than it could be without any awareness on your part.
Tips for better sleep
Establish a set sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every night including the weekends. This teaches your brain to shut down at a certain time and makes it easier to fall asleep.
Sleep in total darkness. Even a small amount of light can reduce the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is also important for a healthy immune system. Research shows that people who work night shifts have a higher risk of some forms of cancer since they don’t get the nighttime increase in melatonin levels.
If you have problems sleeping, don’t reach for a sleeping pill. Sleeping medications have too many side effects. Eat cherries or drink cherry juice instead. Cherries are a natural source of sleep-inducing melatonin.
Get regular exercise, and don’t take your work with you to bed. Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom, and don’t use them within an hour of bedtime. The light from a computer monitor can disrupt the natural release of melatonin.
The bottom line
Sleep is important for mental and physical health, and women need slightly more of it than men. Learn how to turn in and tune out when bedtime rolls around for better health.