“A typical 75-year-old woman has a comparable brain age to a 70-year-old man. We are unsure why. The fact that a woman’s brain tends to get more time to relax and repair itself may explain it.”, according to Horne.
On average, women need 20 more minutes of snoozing than men. Research says that the extra shut-eye is required because their brains are busier with multitasking than men’s brains are. When you’re sleeping, your brain goes into a recovery mode where it disengages from your senses and focuses on making repairs. Everyone needs this time to function, but that extra 20 minutes of sleep gives women time to recover from the previous day and to prepare for the day ahead.
Women Are Affected More By Sleep Quality
A 2008 study conducted by Duke Medical Center took on 210 middle-aged men and women for a sleep study. All the participants were non-smokers, not on any medication, and none of them had any type of sleep disorder.
The study used a sleep-quality questionnaire to measure how participants viewed their recent sleep history. The researchers then took blood samples to look at biomarkers for diabetes and heart disease.
Around 40 percent of the participants were deemed to be poor sleepers, according to the questionnaire results. However, there were dramatic differences in the health of poor sleepers based on their gender. Women who slept poorly were more prone to feelings of anger, depression, and hostility. The less they slept, the greater the likelihood of experiencing psychological distress. These markers did not appear in the men in the study — even those who slept very poorly.
Basically, women who sleep poorly don’t get enough shut-eye to let their brains recover. When their brains are tired, thinking is generally harder the next day.
Yet, Women Still Sleep Poorly
Be it an active mind or biology, women tend to sleep poorly, despite how much sleep affects their overall happiness. According to the National Sleep Foundation in the UK, there are several reasons that women do not get the sleep they need at various points in their lives.
For example, pregnancy often leads to sleep disturbances because of weight gain or the position of the baby in utero. Women going through menopause also have difficulty sleeping because of hot flashes. Women who cohabitate or share a bed with a partner, especially one who uses a cellphone in bed, are also likely to have erratic sleeping patterns. Cell phones are known to cause infertility, but using them close to bed can also disrupt sleep. Women are also more likely to lose sleep while worrying about problems both in and out of their control.
The problem is so great that a study from the University of Surrey found that 18 percent of women sleep poorly five nights a week, while only eight percent of men have the same complaint. However, a contrasting Dutch study showed that women frequently underestimated the amount of sleep they actually got.
Not An Absolute Rule
According to Professor John Horne, women need that extra 20 minutes on average. However, that is not a rule. Some women may need more than 20 minutes, while others may need less. You also shouldn’t rule that 20 minutes out of a man’s requirements either. Horne also says that a man with a complex job who makes a lot of decisions may also need more sleep. Though, he admits that even those men still may not need as much as women.
Featured photo credit: Timothy Krause via flickr.com