Neuroscientists Explain Why Women Need More Sleep Than Men

We’ve all been told at one point or another in our lives that we require 8 hours of sleep in order to be happy and healthy. However, have you ever woken from a ‘good night’s sleep’ only to find that your partner appears happy and rested while you are still dragging your feet?

Do you go out of your way to ensure that you are getting that suggested 8 hours each night only to feel as though they aren’t enough?

Professor Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University and author of ‘Sleepfaring: A Journey Through the Science of Sleep’ is now shattering the myth and revealing a game-changing piece of information – The average woman needs approximately 20 minutes more sleep than the average man.

 

Sleep is a basic human need in order to live a happy and healthy life, on par with our need for a balanced diet and adequate physical activity. For this reason, it is incredibly concerning that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders! Often overlooked when discussing the health of our nation, lack of adequate sleep is a significant problem that deserves far more attention among researchers and healthcare professionals.

A good night sleep is important to promote optimal brain function including improved concentration, productivity, performance, and cognition. It also works to reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, and diabetes and boosts your immune system.

Horne explained, “One of the major functions of sleep is to allow the brain to recover and repair itself. During deep sleep, the cortex – the part of the brain responsible for thought, memory, language and so on – disengages from the sense 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.”

 

But why do women require more sleep than men? Horne revealed that it had to do with the way that women’s brains are wired. More complex than the average man’s brain, it requires more sleep in order to adequately recover. “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,” Horne stated. “Because of that, their sleep need is greater.”

A study was conducted including 201 middle-aged men and women, focusing on their needs for sleep, including how long the participants slept and the quality of their sleep. Horne, the study’s author, concluded that the average man required approximately 6-8 hours of sleep each night, while those who have complex jobs that require decision making and lateral thinking skills may require more. However, the average woman required approximately 20 mins more sleep in order to obtain the same benefits. This is partially due to the complex nature of a woman’s brain, as well as the fact that women tend to sleep lighter and are disturbed easier than their male counterparts.

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