If you often find that you have a hard time getting as much sleep as your significant other, well, you’re not alone. New research suggests that women have a different circadian rhythm—the complex internal clock that helps regulate sleeping patterns—than men do.
The study saw 15 men and 11 women have their sleep monitored over the course of three days, while alternating between being awake and napping. The process gave researchers the opportunity to see how long it took them to fall asleep while tracking their various vital signs.
What they found was that women fell asleep and woke up earlier than men. "The tendency to fall asleep during a day is about two hours earlier in women than in men," says Diane B. Boivin, the lead author on the study. "It's as if the circadian system is one time zone eastward in women compared to that of men."
Women also hard a hard time staying asleep, and had a greater tendency of waking up too early. According to Sarah Jacoby of Refinery 29, this has to do with “a bundle of neurons in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus,” which is an area that “regulates the amount of sleep- and wakefulness-modulating hormones (such as melatonin) your brain releases.”
Dr. Boivin notes that it’s the same area of the brain that regulates the hormone cycle, which means “the part of the brain responsible for the circadian system and sleep mechanisms has a sex." Because there are sex differences in circadian rhythms, woman who have a hard time getting enough sleep need to be proactive in fighting it. Dr. Boivin suggests avoiding light exposure during the night, which as Jacoby reminds us means “no checking your phone.” Easier said than done.
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