Going to Bed Earlier Is the Key to Toppling the Patriarchy

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Photo: Frederic Cirou

Not only do women need more sleep than men because we use more of our brains than men do, but it appears that our bodies operate on a timetable literally ahead of theirs. We may be able to use this to our advantage.

For a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at McGill University tracked variations in sleep, alertness, core body temperature, and melatonin levels of 15 men and 11 women in a sleep lab over 36 hours. After controlling for menstrual cycle and birth-control use — both of which can affect circadian rhythms — they found that women’s body clocks made them fall asleep and wake up earlier than men even if they had a similar sleep schedule.

“The reason is simple: [women’s] body clock is shifted to a more easterly time zone,” said Diane B. Boivin of McGill University’s department of psychiatry and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in a release.
She said this finding is essential to understanding why women are more likely to suffer from insomnia and sleep disturbances than men, including waking up earlier and feeling tired after a night’s sleep.

The researchers said their results indicated that women are probably going to bed later in their circadian phase than men, which might partly explain our comparative sleep problems. Just imagine what women could do if we went to bed earlier.

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