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Women need more sleep than men because their brains are more complex

Women need more sleep than men because their brains are more complex

Women need more sleep than men because their brains are more complex
Danielle de Wolfe
15 December 2015

Carrying bags under your eyes the size of biodegradable ones from Tesco? Feeling lethargic at work? Hoping to correct all that this weekend if you win the battle with your girlfriend over who gets to sleep in the longest?

Well don’t hold your breath: according to a new study, men need less sleep than women because our brains are less complex than theirs.

Carried out by Professor Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, the research found that women, what with their "busy, multi-tasking brains", needed roughly 20 minutes more shut-eye than their male counterparts, obviously running on far less multifaceted memory banks.

"During deep sleep, the cortex — the part of the brain responsible for thought memory, language and so on – disengages from the senses and goes into recovery mode," Prof Horne said.

"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. Because of that, their sleep need is greater. A man who has a complex job that involves a lot of decision-making and lateral thinking may also need more sleep than the average male — though probably still not as much as a woman.

"This is because women’s brains are wired differently from men’s and are more complex, so their sleep need will be slightly greater. The average is 20 minutes more, but some women may need slightly more or less than this."

For all the light-hearted possibilities of being ribbed by your significant other, these findings could prove mightily important with regards to mental health. Another study by the team, examining 210 middle aged men and women, found that women suffered greater mental health issues from being sleep deprived than men did.

"We found that for women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress and greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger. In contrast, these feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men," read the report.

So while setting the alarm earlier to make the breakfast and feed the dog may feel a slog in the short term, giving your significant other a more lie-in will make you a hero in the long term.


[Images: Allstar]