We’ve all witnessed the phenomenon.
Dad sits down in his chair, turns on the TV and within minutes falls asleep.
He gets down on the floor to build Legos with the kids and then is found on his side asleep with a Lego brick under his hand.
Mom begins to tell Dad about the conversation she had with the neighbor, but he’s dozed off at some undetermined point not long after she started.
And we’ve all wondered, how do men zonk out so easily — seemingly anywhere, anytime? And women have asked: Why can’t I fall asleep like that?
Well, it turns out there are several reasons – backed by scientific research – that explain why Mom needs more sleep than Dad but gets less of it.
The Hormone Struggle is Real
That’s right, ladies, you can blame hormones for this too. Lots of women have experienced some form of insomnia but may not realize how much of it is a result of hormonal changes. Those fluctuations in hormones occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause, which when you think about it, means a woman is vulnerable to sleep issues for about half her lifetime.
Rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle affect a woman’s ability to fall and stay asleep. Studies show that during pregnancy, a woman is unable to reach the deeper sleep stage as often as she did when not pregnant. In the menopausal stage of her life, a woman can experience hot flashes and insomnia.
Feel More, Sleep Less
Canadian sleep researcher Dr. Helen Driver said that a woman’s tendency to be more emotionally sensitive could be the culprit to her sleep troubles. Women have a harder time turning off the brain at bedtime because they process things emotionally more than men do.
“A theory we have is that women tend to ruminate about things a little bit more than men do. Women worry and think about what’s happened during the day, and they’re not able to let things go,” said Dr. Driver.
Who Uses Their Brain More?
A study from Duke University concluded that women need more sleep than men because they use their brains more. At Loughborough University in England, similar findings came from the Sleep Research Center.
Center director Jim Horne explained, “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.”
Both of these findings seem to support Dr. Driver’s research about how women tend to think more about things than men and have difficulty shutting down the brain for sleep.
Who’s Better on Less Sleep?
This last piece of research doesn’t explain why men have an easier time falling asleep than women, but it does provide some proof for what many women already know. In a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, women who were sleep-deprived reported less sleepiness and performed assigned tasks better than sleep-deprived men.
Research shows that Dad may get more – and even better — sleep than Mom, but we all deserve and need a good night’s sleep so if you’re having trouble, try these Sleep Tips.