If you’ve ever wondered why you’re left hitting the snooze button and hiding under the duvet while your husband leaps out of bed at the crack of dawn, wonder no more, because scientists have just proved that women are more susceptible to sleep deprivation than men.
A new study by a team of researchers at Duke University examined the sleeping habits of 210 healthy men and women aged between 18 and 65, surveying the frequency and quality of their sleep, as well as their physical wellbeing and any psychological symptoms.
As they examined the relationship between quality of sleep and long-term health problems like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, and elevated stress, it became apparent that the incidence of these problems increased with lack of sleep — but only in women. Poor sleep was also linked to a higher body mass and weight gain — but — you guessed it — only in women.
So, men remain largely unaffected by the problems associated with poor sleeping habits, while women can expect weight gain and a host of health issues. Great news all around.
The scientists believe that this difference between the sexes may be down to the hormone testosterone, which is found in higher quantities in men than women. It has previously been found to protect the body’s cells, and so may protect against the effects of sleep deprivation.
Writing in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, the researchers explain that "it is reasonable to assume […] that higher testosterone levels blunt the health damaging consequences of poor sleep in men."
When it comes to the correlation between weight gain and lack of sleep, the team believe that it is once again down to our hormones: Women have more estrogen and progesterone and less testosterone, making us more susceptible to being thrown off balance by sleep deprivation.
It’s not all doom in gloom, though — the authors of the study are keen to emphasize how important it is that women develop a stable bedtime routine, allowing ourselves plenty of time to fall asleep. So whether that means ditching the midnight Netflix session, using this website to determine what time you should hit the sack, or just investing in some fancy scented candles, it’s time to re-evaluate our sleeping habits…
This post was written by Katie Rosseinsky. For more, check out our sister site Grazia.