Recently a new research study from Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Center in England made waves by revealing that women need more sleep than men. The director of the Sleep Research Center Jim Horne explained, “Women’s brains are wired differently … so their sleep need will be slightly greater…Women tend to multitask – they do lots at once and are flexible – and so they use more of their actual brain than men do.”
The research also outlined that women are more strongly affected by poor sleep or lack of sleep than men, with a higher likelihood of mood instability and psychological distress as a result. Horne went on to explain that women need an extra 20 minutes of sleep, minimum, in comparison to men, because they use more of their brains throughout the day, meaning they need longer in the “recovery mode” provided by sleep.
Firstly, any research that highlights the complexity of women’s brains should be celebrated! We are all too often made to feel like we are lacking in comparison to men – that our femaleness makes us inherently “less”. Here is further proof that there is nothing to support this cultural view. Thank you!
Secondly, it’s hardly surprising that women use their brains more and therefore need more time to rest. As the researcher states, we women simply do more with our brains on a daily basis – we multitask, we switch roles, we take care of our children, our homes, and our businesses all at once. We often take on paid work, plus the unpaid work of homemaking and childcare, and the emotional labor of looking after loved ones, simultaneously. It’s no wonder we need to rest more than our male partners!
Research has shown that sleep deprivation has a depressive effect – it suppresses adrenal function, slows serotonin production, and produces more mental chatter. A study published in 2014 detailed that chronic sleep deprivation – that is, getting less than the 7-8 hours you need per night on a consistent basis – significantly stalls learning abilities and memory. Lack of sleep prevents your brain synapses from communicating with each other effectively. A protein-based plaque actually builds up between the synapses when we don’t allow the brain to rest, repair, and “decongest” itself at night. Like a computer operating system, your brain needs to defragment and process all the information you took in during the day. A 2015 study showed the dangers of allowing this plaque to build up, as can happen through lack of sleep, in those susceptible to dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
The real reason women need more sleep
Most importantly, women are doing all this extra brain work in an environment that organizes our time, energy, and workload by masculine or linear guidelines. It’s amazing we need only an extra 20 minutes of sleep!
Women work on a different operating system to men and that’s fundamentally down to our hormone patterns. Men have daily hormone cycles, women have monthly 4-phase hormone cycles. For men and women, our hormones impact how our brains function.
The Flo Living protocol, that I live by and teach, supports women in reorganizing their lives to work with their original operating system, to match their hormonal patterns. It overrides the male-centric system we are expected to work within and replaces it with something that is more female-friendly and allows us to not just survive, but thrive. Giving ourselves extra time in bed is really the bare minimum we can do for ourselves in terms of self-care.
Coping with sleep deprivation as a mom
In the last year I have come to know what it really means to live sleep-deprived. My newborn daughter has show me how lack of sleep can impact my mental health! Sometimes it’s just that I find myself struggling to remember the right word or the right name. My thinking feels slowed and foggy. Sometimes I feel truly exhausted.
This has made me focus on the best way my daughter, and therefore I, can get great quality sleep every night. I already had a sleep-supportive nighttime routine in place and encouraged my body to allow for deep, restorative sleep through my dietary choices. But in this last year, I’ve really had to up my sleep-game to ensure I get the real rest I need. I had to create an environment for myself and my daughter that prioritizes our sleep. I’m a woman so I’m using more of my brain, I’m a mom of a one year-old, and I’m an entrepreneur! I’ve just had to create the perfect night’s sleep for myself.
What I need for a good night’s sleep
- Blackout shades for the bedroom. I live in Manhattan, which is wonderful, but also very bright, even at night. Black out shades mean I can go to bed when my daughter does without worrying about sundown and I can block out the street lights, car lights and apartment lights that would otherwise disturb my sleep.
- A white noise machine. Again, I live in Manhattan! It’s fantastic, but it’s also really noisy. It’s the city that NEVER sleeps, right? A white noise machine has been a great investment. This blocks out all extraneous noise – car alarms, horns, trucks – all times of the day. We can both get sleep whenever we need to without worrying about the city’s schedule.
- Bone broth before bed. Bone broth is fantastically healing for many reasons. Consuming the gelatin in bone broth before bed helps induce sleep as a result of the amino acid, glycine, that it contains. Glycine has a calming affect on the neurotransmitters within the brain. Research has shown that bone broth will improve the quality of your sleep, help reduce daytime sleepiness, and stop the effects of sleep deprivation like learning and memory issues.
My takeaway is – know this: you’re a woman and your brain is amazing! You didn’t need this research to know that, but isn’t it nice to have it on paper?
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
to your FLO,
Good things come in threes:
I want to hear from you!
First, do you have trouble sleeping?
Second, does your sleeping get worse at certain times in your cycle?
Third, everyone you know is hormonal – spread a little good ovary karma and share this article on social 😉
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