I get asked all the time if a woman or a man needs more sleep. This a hard question to answer because the research just isn’t there yet. Beyond what the scientific reports tell me, what I see in actual people in and day out from a clinical perspective however, says a lot. I know from a clinical standpoint that women tend to confess more about sleep issues than men. Does that mean men are less vulnerable to sleep problems or that women happen to be more comfortable talking about their health? It’s hard to say.
Given my experience I’m inclined to admit that women, as a gender, appear to bear numerous stresses due to the multifaceted nature of their roles in today’s society: Mom, Wife. Employ Chauffeur. Cook. Cleaner. Business owner. Family manager. Caretak etc. When I sit and talk with my female patients who do happen comprise more of my patient base than males we discuss everything from pregnancy to menopause, to career, to marriage, and that word “balance,” and I know I’ve got it much easier than many of them.
One would naturally think that since women and men are physic logically different, they’d also have different sleep needs. But women from adolescence to postmenopause, are underrepresented in studies sleep and its disorders. Although sleep complaints are twice as prevalent among women, the majority of sleep research has been conducted in men (this is changing). Some studies are now showing that women men be at greater risk for insomnia, or have a predisposition due to their Sex, but explaining this from a purely scientific standpoint is not entire] possible right now. Thus, the question remains unanswered.
Compounding the complexity of this question is the fact that age can have more to do with sleep needs and experiences than gender. For example, younger women may build up a sleep debt more easily than older women. Whether or not this is true, however, is debatable. In fact many sleep studies result in controversial and inconclusive data.
What we do know about sleep and aging is that the older you get, that more likely you are to suffer from interrupted sleep, which is critical to feeling rested and refreshed, Older people still need roughly the same number of sleep hours as they got when they were younger (it may dev ate by thirty minutes to an hour, over a lifetime), but the architecture their sleep shifts. The amplitude (height) of their brain waves decrease, making these waves no longer meets criteria for deep sleep. They a easily awakened by noise, light, or even their own pain from a chronic medical condition. Sleep becomes more fragmented and inefficient, the actual time spent sleeping is less than the time spent in bed.
Another influential aspect of aging that can affect sleep is your circadian rhythm, which is a very important subject matter we’ll be visiting throughout this book. Circadian rhythms are the patterns of repeat activity associated with the environmental cycles of day and night. Our internal rhythms repeat roughly every twenty-four hours. Examples dude the sleep-wake cycle, the ebb and flow of hormones, the rise a fall of body temperature, and other subtle rhythms that mesh with twenty-four-hour solar day. A lot of people’s sleep problems can be attributed to an internal clock that has become out of sync or mismatch with the day-night cycle. And as you’ll learn about extensively, ii has an immense impact on setting our body clocks, also called our circadian pacemakers.
Everyone’s circadian pacemaker ticks at a different rate, but as age, your pacemaker will speed up or slow down, thus altering how’, body responds to that twenty-four-hour cycle. Babies don’t get a rhythm going until about six months of age, at which point they establish a rhythm that matches closely with the twenty-four-hour day. If you had teenagers in the house, you know they typically don’t go too much before eleven at night. From the age of about fifteen to twenty five, that pacemaker slows down, so a seventeen year old’s body usally won’t want to go to sleep early or get up early.
Sometime during our twenties, the body clock speeds back up again so it matches the twenty four-hour day. Then, later on in life, our clocks speed up further, so body doesn’t match so well with the twenty-four-hour day. If want go to bed early and get up super early, which is what you find Granny and Gramps doing. At an older age the body also doesn’t experience strong a fluctuation in core body temperature throughout the day, with affects the rhythm. This might explain partially why older people rhythms aren’t as robust and clearly defined as younger people.