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Do Women need more Sleep?

  • 02 August 2017
  • By Shveta Bhagat

The oft used phrase “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” applies when it comes to sleep as well, and the main reason being physiological.

The need for enough sleep cuts across gender and the consequences of being sleep deprived are felt equally by both. Then you’d ask what is the differentiating factor? According to a research by Krishnan V, Collop NA:’ Gender differences in sleep disorders’, “while women are likely to have more quality sleep at an average, they have more sleep related problems. The difference becomes obvious post onset of puberty”. Women undergo a hormonal cycle that makes them undergo different metabolic changes. Restless leg syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea and transitory insomnia are all experienced at different stages. Menstruation, child birth and menopause too alter sleep pattern due to fluctuating estrogen level.

There is a contentious issue on whether women need more sleep. One argument holds that as women multi-task and have more things on their mind, they would need longer hours of sleep. There is no corroboration on this one as the other side of the argument upholds the same could apply to men as well on certain occasions, especially in today’s relationship dynamics with shared responsibilities.

However, considering women are more prone to changes in their physical and emotional nature as directed by the hormonal cycle in their reproductive years, it is possible that they carry that “extra baggage” adding to their fatigue. In which case the above argument needs to be reconsidered.

Another odd stacked against the fairer sex, is that they have a shorter circadian rhythm, which is responsible for sleep as it sends signal to our brain about day and night and tunes our body to fall asleep when night pulls in. The circadian cycle is anyway affected with age which is why it is very common to find older people complaining of night time wakefulness and morning drowsiness. So by the time middle age comes upon us, there is a good chance women are already grappling with getting enough sleep, because of their circadian rhythm getting even shorter. They could be experiencing less of deep sleep or slow wave sleep (SWS) increasing their need to sleep more.

Men and women both are prescribed supplements for better sleep according to their need but also gender. In many countries research has shown that women are getting much less sleep than men, mainly in cultures which are not very conducive for women. A lot of times psychosocial issues come into play and it is observed that some women aren’t being able to sleep because of fear psychosis in a dominating landscape.

Women are at a greater risk of serious health damage resulting from insufficient sleep as compared to their male counterparts. Duke University Medical Center researchers have discovered that women reporting sleep loss have a higher risk of heart disease, depression and type 2 diabetes. They could be at a higher risk of breast cancer, fibroids and miscarriage as well.

So time to pay attention to women's sleep!

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