For many women, the role of “sleeping beauty” is one rarely played. In June 2011, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published their 2011 research summary, offering many explanations as to why this fairytale is lost among the female population.
In one study, researchers discovered that women often have a shorter circadian rhythm than men – six minutes shorter. It may not seem like a lot, but conclusive evidence suggests that day after day, those minutes can add up fast. A majority of the women researched displayed behavior common to individuals often described as “early birds,” wanting to go to bed early and wake-up early. On the other hand, the men studied suggested that men are more likely to be “night-owls,” preferring to stay up late and sleep later. In August 2010, the Journal of Biological Rhythms published a study that noted this phenomenon, relating that the behavior of an “early bird” may contribute to a reduction in sleep as the night comes to a close and result in insomnia, which is also seen more commonly in women than in men.
Despite these statistics, scientists have discovered time and again that women get more sleep than men, although they report less satisfaction with their sleep and perceive themselves to be more sleep-deprived than men. Even women with new babies and young children, statistically, are shown to get more sleep than fathers. In 2005, a small study published in Chronobiology International found that women fall asleep in 9.3 minutes and generally slept for 7 hours and 43 minutes, almost 20 minutes longer than the average male.
Researchers speculate that there are many pieces missing to the puzzle when it comes to what is really going on while women are sleeping. According to a 2011 report in The Wall Street Journal newer studies are using PET scans to view a more in-depth picture of what is going on in the brain in women who have insomnia. Some have already noted that glucose metabolism is higher in some areas of the brain, suggesting that the brain has not completely shut-down. Further discussion describes how women are 50 percent more likely to suffer from insomnia than men and have increased reports of anxiety and depression, which also contribute to insomnia.
Sleep is important to your health and a key factor in maintaining your youthful beauty. If you feel you fall into the category of an “early bird,” experts suggest increasing your exposure to light in the evening to extend your bedtime and take measures to ensure you remain unexposed to light in the mornings to get your full night’s rest. If “night owl,” better matches your description, begin turning down the lights early and create an environment that will expose you to the light as the sun comes up. These steps will help you fall asleep faster and awaken more easily.