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Study Confirms Women Need More Sleep Than Men — How to Get It Is Another Story

Abdulcelil Levni

Beauty sleep is no myth

When I was a teen my dad was convinced I was on drugs because all I wanted to do was sleep.

Of course these days we know from sleep scientists that “early high school start times conflict with teens’ shifting circadian rhythms,” sleep expert Judith Owens recently said to NPR. Thus, teens are more likely to stay up late at night and want to sleep later in the day.

I’m no longer a teen (far from it, in fact), and yet I am still neither on drugs nor do I sleep any less. Turns out I continue to have an excuse for my desire to sleep. Often.

Researchers at Duke University have confirmed that not only do women need more sleep than men, but most women don’t get enough. According to news.com.au, women suffer mentally and physically “if they are forced to skimp on their sleep,” with risks including higher risk of heart disease, stroke, depression and psychological problems.

On the flip side, there’s is no correlation between men’s health and how much sleep they do or don’t get.

Women needing more sleep is attributed to how much multi-tasking they do during waking hours, which means they use more of their brain than men do.

The study’s authors suggested women try taking “strategic” naps — specifically either 25 or 90 minutes in length. Anything shorter, longer or in between will make them feel worse upon waking.

Of course as most moms know, it’s one thing to need more sleep, it’s a whole other thing to be able to get it. Plenty of new moms will surely agree that one of the most annoying pieces of advice is “sleep when the baby sleeps.” As if they have nothing else on their to-do list and it’s just so easy to shut your eyes and drift off into REM at 11:30 each morning or 6:20 at night.

In my house, my husband generally gets up with our kids in the morning, although the extra 20-30 minutes of “sleep” I get is often spent thinking and planning. When I’m able to block those thoughts, I am sometimes awake listening to my kids demanding in very loud voices bagels or the plate her sister got. That’s also what keeps me up many nights — not falling asleep when I want and need to because of a visual of my to-do list dancing in my head (or listening to the baby monitor wondering if one of the kids will wake me up at the precise moment I fall asleep and dream of arriving at George Clooney’s Lake Como house).

The question I need researchers to delve into next is how women can get more sleep without being medicated, sending their kids off to Grandma’s or waiting until they leave for college.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Follow Meredith on Twitter and check out her regular column on the op-ed page of The Denver Post at MeredithCarroll.com

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