The Super Scientific Reason Why Women Need More Sleep Than Men

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

We have a running joke in my house that goes a little something like this:

Mom is always tired and could sleep for a thousand years, but Dad can survive on only 2 hours of sleep a night hahaha.

Oh, wait, that’s actually not very funny, is it?

But it’s the truth. I really am always tired, and I really do seem to need more sleep than my husband does on a general basis. I used to think it was just genetics — he comes from a long line of farmers who essentially survive on corn dust and homegrown beef instead of sleep, while I come from parents whose favorite hobbies include napping and sleeping. My husband also happens to be one of an apparent rare breed of men who has no problem whatsoever getting up with our kids at night, and truth be told, there are some nights he even hears the kids and I don’t. We joke a lot about me being a lazy bones, and sometimes I am fully aware the joking veers into “fighting words” territory because it really does appear that I need more sleep than my husband to survive the day.

Thankfully, however, it would appear that science is on my side.

Professor Jim Horne, the director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University and author of Sleepfaring: A Journey Through The Science Of Sleep told the Daily Mail in 2010 that “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.”

I like the way this guy thinks.

Unfortunately, another, newer study that analyzed male and female brains may debunk this brilliant claim, after finding that there is no such thing as “male” and “female” when it comes to brains. Surprisingly and rather disappointingly, brains are brains.

But, we could argue that although the brains may not be wired differently, perhaps social conditioning or necessity has reformatted the way that we use our brains, so women may have more browsers open and running all day, every day than men.

It’s like how I feel exhausted after a day of essentially doing nothing but chasing my children, prepping meals, cleaning those meals, organizing schedules, running to school pick-up, taking kids to activities, trying to fit in a workout, working, and making sure my husband is aware of everything he needs to do. Sometimes I feel so confused by how the mental work of motherhood can be so draining.

Because even if the brain isn’t wired to work that way just because we are female, as Professor Horne pointed out, the more you use your brain during the day, the more sleep your brain needs at night to recover, thus, women’s sleep > men’s sleep. It makes perfect, beautiful, logical sense to me, and I’m sure you will all agree, right?

And regardless of the official reason behind why women need more sleep (too busy? too much to do? too annoyed by their husband’s snoring?), the National Sleep Foundation is very clear on the fact that women:

  1. Have a lot harder time than men falling and staying asleep.
  2. Report more daytime sleepiness.

Not surprisingly, they blame some of the difference on hormones, which honestly, I’m getting a little tired of. Is there anything in this world that is not blamed on female hormones? Anything? Men have hormones too, guys. Hormones control literally everything in our bodies, so saying “oh, it’s just hormones” really makes no sense at all because everything is “just hormones.” End rant.

The point is, studies may conflict a bit on this super important topic of whether or not women actually do require more sleep than men, but the evidence is clear: whichever way you slice it, we ain’t getting enough, so men of the world with kids, you’re up to bat tonight.

And honestly, I’m here to say that the relevance of proving that women need more sleep than men will never, ever fade with time, so let’s get on that science. Or maybe all the female scientists are napping because they’re smarter than me. Which in that guess, good for you, ladies.

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