Women need more sleep than men – but they don’t get it.

According to Britain’s leading expert in Sleep Science women need to have more sleep than men. It may only be twenty minutes per night and that may not seem much, but it adds up to a massive amount in a lifetime and is vital.

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It works out at 7,300 minutes a year, which is just over 120 hours, or 15 full nights of 8 hours sleep, and if you work that out over the average woman’s lifetime of 84 years then it’s a huge sleep deficit of about 3.5 years in total.

Dr. Jim Horne, the expert in question, pointed out that women tend to multi-task whereas men don’t. Consequently they use more of their actual brain than men and this leads to a greater need for sleep. Essentially, the more you use your brain during the day, the more it needs to rest.

Professor Horne is director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University and author of Sleepfaring: A Journey Through The Science of Sleep, and he states:

“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 senses 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. 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. Because of that, their sleep need is greater. A man who has a complex job that involves a lot of decision-making and lateral thinking may also need more sleep than the average male — though probably still not as much as a woman.”

“This is because women’s brains are wired differently from men’s and are more complex, so their sleep need will be slightly greater. The average is 20 minutes more, but some women may need slightly more or less than this.”

Basically, women’s brains are typically more complex and thus need more time to relax and recover during the night. There are several factors that may affect women’s quantity and quality of sleep:

  • Sleep disturbances during pregnancy due to excess weight and the position of the foetus.
  • Difficulty sleeping during menopause due to hot flushes.
  • Being woken up and moved around on the bed by their partner, particularly as men tend to be larger than women.
  • Worrying about problems and losing sleep as a result.
  • The biggest problem however is snoring. Women lose much more sleep due to snoring and more than 2/3 of men wake their partner up.

All of us can be woken up by the sound of snoring at some time, and for many, it is certainly not funny. Large amounts of precious sleep are often lost from it. Tiredness is not the only resulting problem. Resentment can lead to relationship problems for many. Chronic sleep loss can cause serious under-performance at work, anxiety, and depression.

Amazingly, some different research discovered that women reported losing approximately 11.5 times as many hours of sleep from disturbance by snoring when the data was compared to that for men. On average the amount of time they were reported being awake was 40 minutes. Men stayed awake for a shorter time of 35 minutes, often continuing to disturb their partner throughout that time.

Bear in mind that women need 20 minutes more sleep anyway, and often lose forty this way, so we are now talking about loss of an hour each night.

One of the key things for women to do is to make sure that their partner take steps to stop snoring – something that is simple today. A massive 69% of women tried to stop their partner’s snoring by poking, kicking, or waking them up but soon found that it didn’t last and it didn’t help. They need an oral appliance to solve the problem, and maybe one for themselves as well.

Oral appliances are like a sports gum shield and fit comfortably, staying in place all night, and ensuring a good night’s sleep for all concerned. Simple starter appliances like this are medically approved, very low cost, and there’s a choice to suit you, all of which can be shaped to fit you well.

If your problem is mild to moderate sleep apnoea then you can obtain a special custom fitted mouthpiece that will prevent the problem – again medically recommended by the NHS in Britain, but with no prescription required. For very extreme cases of course you should talk to your Doctor who may refer you to a Sleep Centre for specialist advice.

John Redfern