Hey ladies! Did you know that there is a science to your sleeping requirements? It’s true, women do in fact need more sleep than men. It’s no wonder that every morning as my boyfriend’s alarm goes off and he is bright and dewy-eyed that I insist on hitting the snooze button for 5, 10, sometimes 20 more minutes!
Britain’s expert in sleep science, Jim Horne, professor and director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, published an article explaining the super scientific reasoning behind this theory. And surprisingly, it’s not just about getting those extra zzz’s in for the cliche ‘beauty sleep,’ but actually so much more! In fact, science has confirmed that women overall have more complex brains, requiring them to need more sleep.
The study explains that on average, women need approximately twenty to thirty more minutes of sleep than men. And though this research suggests that women require more sleep, research also shows that most women aren’t actually getting the real rest that they truly need.
So why are women missing out on the rest that is so essential for their brains and overall functionality? Jim Horne states, “For Women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress and greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger. These feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men. (1)
The Science Of Sleep
One of the top reasons attributing to lack of proper rest in women is their busy schedules. As women tend to multi-task, this requires a higher usage of their actual brain, which leads to a greater need for sleep. Though it may seem like common sense, it is true that the more you use your brain during the day, essentially the more your brain needs real beneficial rest while asleep. “Women’s brains are wired differently, so their sleep needs will be slightly greater. Women tend to multitask, they do lots at once and are flexible so they use more of their actual brain than men do. However, men who have complex jobs, which involve a lot of decision-making and lateral thinking are also likely to need more sleep than the average male,” Hone states. (1)
The study also suggested that women have a harder time shutting down their brains once they do begin to settle down to go to sleep. Because of the structure of women’s brains the temptation to continue to multitask even when they should be resting still remains. In today’s society, it is especially likely that most women tend to utilize their downtime to check emails or scope out social media. Recent studies have also shown that when we take the time to be on our phones or computers at late hours of the night, the effect that blue emitted light from electronics makes it harder for our brains to shut down or unwind.
But it’s not just our prolific multitasking that causes women to not get the rest we so essentially require. Our hormones play a big part in what’s to blame for our lack of rest. This should be no surprise, as hormones take the blame for a variety of issues ranging from our moods, to weight, and yes, now even our sleep.
Throughout our cycle, women tend to experience strong hormonal fluctuations. More specifically, the hormone to blame is the sex hormone, progesterone. In the last two weeks of a woman’s monthly cycle, the surge in this hormone creates a significant demand for energy. And sleep deprivation can lead to negative effects on both hormonal and neurological health for women. As your adrenal function can be compromised, the amount of serotonin production slows down, hindering your sleep, and often making your PMS symptoms worsen. (2)
So when we blame our irritability, grumpiness and all other emotional feelings that we as women suffer from monthly on our periods, it is actually all signs of sleep deprivation. And if you are a mother who has babies that contribute to a lack of sleep, this effect of sleep deprivation and hormones can and likely will be even greater for you.
Solutions For Better Sleep
So how can you improve upon your sleep quality? Aside from making time to truly relax and turning off your electronic devices before bedtime, there are other things you can do to set yourself up for a good night’s rest.
- Routine Sleep – Setting a routine allows your brain to recognize when it is being told to slow down and relax. An hour before bedtime, turn off electronics, go for a short walk, take a warm bath or shower, indulge in calm music, or read a book – a real book, not a handheld device!
- Avoid Stimulating Snacks – Coffee and treats before bedtime should definitely be avoided. These foods can act as stimulants whether it be caffeine in coffee, or the sugar in chocolate, or other stimulating elements. These ingredients can have negative effects on your much-needed sleep and often can lead to insomnia.
- Meditation – Meditation can aid in allowing your brain to settle and get into a state of deep relaxation. Especially for us multi-tasking ladies and mommas, this can be a huge help in allowing you to de-stress and getting your brain to take a break from working non-stop.
- Yoga – Did you know that yoga is often recommended for insomniacs? In addition to meditation, yoga postures can promote the body to get prepared for a good night’s rest. (3)
- Melatonin – Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your body that can help regulate our circadian rhythm, AKA natural body clock. Taking melatonin supplements in doses of 1-3 mg approximately an hour before bedtime can help aid in your sleep cycle disturbances. Aside from taking melatonin supplements, you can also produce melatonin by getting a healthy dose of sunshine-induced vitamin D, utilizing the essential oil Lavender, eating foods rich in melatonin such as walnuts, almonds, bananas, and goji berries, as well as reducing your exposure to blue light from your electronics. (4)
So next time you feel the urge to hit the snooze button and take a few extra minutes to yourself, go ahead! You’re mind, body, and souls are so worth it. Sleep tight, ladies!