Just this week a study came out of the U.K. revealing an alarming discrepancy between the effects lack of sleep brings men versus women. Scientists looked at two biological markers that relate to cardiovascular health and discovered that those markers change a lot when a woman loses sleep but not so much when a man loses sleep.
In other words, if a woman gets fewer than 8 hours of sleep, her risk for heart disease goes up (accordingto these biological indications), but men don’t seem to show such a significant increase in their risk.Not fair?
We all know men and women are built differently. Hormones, body composition, and other physiological variations are probably contributing to this mismatch seen in the lab. Heart disease continues to be the number one killer for both sexes, though let’s not forget that, on average, women outlive men.
No matter who you are—man or woman—your risk for heart disease goes up the more you lose out on sleep. What this study shows is that this risk may go up more steeply for a woman than for a man the more she loses sleep.
That’s not to say men get a free pass to sleep less. Statistically, women do complain more than men about poor sleep and not feeling rested in the morning. A few questions:
- Can men naturally get away with less sleep and not feel its ramifications as severely as women?
- Should we separate men and women in all studies about sleep?
- Will there be different risk parameters across the board for men and women?
- Could these biological markers be leading us astray in making definitive conclusions about risk between the sexes?
Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM
The Sleep Doctor