Live Science has set out to remedy the gender discrepancy in research, with more clinical trials focusing on men than on women. Their handy slide show on 5 Myths About Women’s Bodies may not be sufficient to tip the balance toward gender equality in research, but it does point out some fascinating stuff.
Most of the myth busters center on reproductivity and sexuality: you CAN get pregnant when you have your period (dogged little sperm can wait as long as a week for an egg); menopause does not affect sex drive; with the exception of the tuberculosis drug rifampin, antibiotics do not lower the effectiveness of birth control; and doctors cannot tell if a woman is a virgin. I’m not entirely sure why Live Science felt the need to bust that last urban legend. Do doctors’ thoughts on their patients’ virginity really top the list of concerns about the female body?
In any case, the myth that I found the most interesting is that men and women need equal sleep; actually, sleep deprivation seems to affect women’s health more than men’s. According to a study of 6,000 participants, women who slept five or fewer hours a night were twice as likely to suffer from hypertension as women who slept seven or more hours. There was no corresponding relationship between sleep and hypertension for men. And a different study of 215 participants found that sleep deprivation not only raises women’s insulin and inflammation levels more than men’s, but it also causes women more psychological distress.
Sorry, fellas, but it looks like you may need to be on nighttime baby duty a little more often.