A new study points out that women have more difficulty staying asleep than men… And gender difference in the human body clock is the reason why.
Rock Around the Clock
The research conducted out of Montreal; Canada showed that women’s circadian clocks operate at a quicker pace than men’s. Our circadian rhythm is the natural process that registers time for our greatest awake and sleep hours over the course of a day (24 hours).
Because women’s internal clocks run faster, their clock is shifted earlier, eastward. This accounts for them not being able to remain in a deep sleep in the early morning hours. This may be one reason why we get awoken more easily than men—and then get tired in the middle of the day.
The sleep signal in the typical circadian rhythm is the strongest between two and four in the morning. But Dr. Diane Boivin (lead author on the study) points out that women’s sleep-wake cycle run about two hours ahead of men’s. That means at three a.m. a woman’s sleep signal may not be as strong as originally supposed.
In the wee hours of the morning, getting woken up can disturb a true, restful sleep. As the results of this study determined, women are more prone to be distracted by a baby crying, a pet needing to go out, or even creaky noises in the house. This can make for a cranky mama later sometime in the daylight hours.
Over the course of 36 hours, both men and women were observed in a controlled environment. There were each placed in a room without windows. They were allowed one-hour of sleep followed by one-hour of awake time for the entire study period. Researchers put the lights on dim during awake time and shut them off during “naps.”
Changes in melatonin levels, body temperature, sleep, and alertness were all monitored and measured. The men’s and women’s habitual bed and wake times were similar, yet the women’s circadian clocks differed. Women appeared to be less alert at night compared to men. According to a UCLA sleep expert, “…women are falling asleep when their brain and body are more prepared for sleep. But, they’re having a difficult time staying asleep later in the night.”
If this sounds anything like your pattern, there are some helpful recommendations. Examine your sleeping environment. Remove elements that could disrupt your sleep during those more “fitful” hours. For example, do not keep your phone or computer in the bedroom. Eliminate possible dings or rings. Share the responsibility of attending to kids or pets with your partner—maybe choose “mommy-full-night-sleep days of the week.” Getting rest is essential to your health. May your circadian clock be on time and allow you to wake feeling rested.
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