June 13, 2003 - It might be a good idea to let sleeping dads lie. A new study shows that men are much more vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation than women.
Researchers say the findings may help explain why men are at greater risk of heart disease and tend to not live as long as women.
The study, to be presented next week at the 85th Annual Meeting of The Endocrine Society in Philadelphia, compared the effects of sleep deprivation among a group of 25 healthy men and women.
The participants slept for eight hours during the first four days of the study and were then restricted to six hours of sleep for the following week.
Researchers found the women handled the sleep deprivation better, both physically and hormonally.
After the week of sleep deprivation, the men had higher levels of tumor necrosis factor, a protein that increases inflammation. Elevated levels of this protein have been linked to a heart disease, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance (a condition that often leads to diabetes).
Following the sleep deprivation, the researchers also found that women were able to sleep more deeply than men and were less affected by disturbances in their sleep, such as taking a blood sample.
"The pre-menopausal women were much more resilient to the effects of sleep loss," says researcher Alexandros Vgontzas, MD, of Pennsylvania State University, in a news release. "In our study, when women lost sleep, they were able to consolidate the sleep that they did not get. Men were unable to do this and often felt the effects of the sleep loss more than the women."
Researchers say these findings are in line with previous studies that have shown that women tend to have better quality and quantity of sleep, despite increased demands on their personal time.
"There is a definite difference in sleeping patterns among men and women," says Vgontzas. "Historically, women have had demands, such as infant and child care, which have lessened their ability to sleep through the night. Our research proves that there is a marked physical change in women, which may have helped to protect them from sleep loss."
The National Sleep Foundation Estimates that up to 40 million Americans suffer from serious sleep disorders. Persistent sleep deprivation can increase the risk of a variety of health problems.