Unless you’re stuck in your teenage years where 12 hours of sleep was the norm, chances are you’re tired. Whether your boss doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the rest of the world has a life after 5pm, your two-year-old (or 12-year-old) refuses to go to bed, or you just can’t make yourself turn off Conan, the next day can be exhausting and draining. And while a sleep-deprived state is not fun for anyone, researchers found women actually get more shut-eye than men–we just complain more about being tired.
Studies have shown that women typically sleep deeper than men and wake up fewer times during the night. We even tend to perform better in a sleep-deprived state, so one would assume that we would be happier about our sleep, but it’s guys who say they are more satisfied with the quality and quantity of sleep.
Why is that? Life changes like pregnancy and menopause can wreak havoc on our sleep schedules, experts say. Not to mention the inability to completely shut off our brains at night–even when we’re sleeping. While we may appear to be in a deep sleep, scientists have shown that the glucose metabolism can still be elevated in some parts of the brain, meaning we’re not totally asleep.
There is good news in all of this though. The different patterns of sleep in men versus women may just mean that we get to live a longer and healthier–and more exhausted–life. Dr. Daniel J. Buysse, a professor of psychiatry and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh told the Wall Street Journal:
Women on average have longer sleep than men; women on average are healthier than men. It could be that those are related.
I want to know: Who are these women that sleep deeper and have fewer interruptions during the night? Ask anyone who’s married with kids: When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, who is more likely to also wake up–you or your “deaf” husband? Prior research has shown that a baby’s cries are the number one thing that wake up women (while it takes a car alarm to awaken a man). So while a baby sounding off is more likely in any family’s household, that means women are the ones losing sleep here. And even after our babies learn to slumber through the night, I know many moms who say they never sleep soundly again because we’re always “listening”.
Dr. Buysee doesn’t necessarily agree. He goes on to say that mothers may tend to feel like they don’t get any sleep, that’s not always the case. It’s just that interrupted sleep just affects us more than men:
This isn’t going to be popular, but some studies show that mothers get more sleep than fathers. If the woman’s sleep is more fragmented, she’s going to suffer more consequences.
As for the solution to our exhausted states? Aside from the obvious, try setting off your car alarm when your baby cries in the middle of the night. Although, then both you and your man would be awake, so maybe that’s not such a good idea.