Rosie Dawson-Hewes: Proof women need 60 winks

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

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There are plenty of places to nap around the office, without resorting to pricey "sleep pods".
There are plenty of places to nap around the office, without resorting to pricey "sleep pods".

I've always been a good sleeper. Unlike Sam eating his green eggs and ham, I could sleep on a boat, in the rain, on a train, in the dark, in a tree, in a car, in a box or in a house. (I draw the line at sleeping with a fox, a goat, or a mouse.)

Either way, you get my drift - I can sleep pretty much anywhere.

I'm also a deep sleeper. One time I really annoyed my brother. I can't even remember what I did but it was enough for him to plot revenge in the cruellest of fashions. He waited until I was asleep then farted on my head. Except that his plan backfired, somewhat, because I'm such a deep sleeper that I didn't wake up. So I was completely unaware, thus minimising the impact of his disgusting revenge. Even when he told me later I wasn't really fussed as I had no recollection of it, therefore, it didn't really matter. I mean, you can't really be grossed out if you don't remember it happening.

I need a lot of sleep, too. I'm one of those people who needs eight to nine hours to even function.

But it turns out I'm not alone in that regard. Researchers at Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre in Leicestershire recently published a study revealing that women tend to need more sleep than men.

"Women's brains are wired differently ... so their sleep need will be slightly greater," says Professor Jim Horne, the director of the Sleep Research Centre.

"Women tend to multi-task - they do lots at once and are flexible - and so they use more of their actual brain than men do."

When I read this I felt as though it simply confirmed what I've always known all along. My husband can happily survive on five or six hours sleep. I, however, will sleep for 12 hours straight on the weekend if I haven't had enough sleep during the week.

When I don't get enough sleep the wheels fall off, and fast. Again, this is something confirmed by the Sleep Research Centre's study. In women, poor sleep was strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress and greater feelings of depression, hostility and anger, something that is corroborated by a 2013 Duke University study which found women suffer more if they skimp on sleep.

Sleep expert Dr Michael Breus says women show more depression, anger, and hostility early in the morning. No kidding. Who is paying for this research? Perhaps next time they should give me their study grants and I'll tell them all this for free.

As a student, I worked in a bank call centre and spent a good 18 months starting work at 7am. I am still not sure how I ended up on early shifts given I am not a morning person and never have been. Anyway, I'm so useless first thing that my entire team knew not to even try talking to me until I'd had my first break (and coffee) at about 10.30am. The particularly scary thought is how many customers' finances I would have dealt with in those first few hours ... still, never had a complaint, so I must have been pretty okay operating on autopilot.

Since then, I've maintained that almost everything can be fixed with a nap. Any time I can squeeze in an extra 40 winks, I will. And, as it turns out, I'm not wrong to try and wangle as much sleep as I can, regardless of the time of day. A 2011 Harvard Medical School study showed insomnia costs the average American worker 11.3 days and $2280 in "lost productivity" each year, which is probably why employers around the world, including Facebook and Proctor & Gamble, are catching on and starting to incorporate sleep pods into their wellness programmes.

But the fancy pods, which incorporate timers and white noise, are pricey and I imagine it would be hard for some local companies to justify. So, always the optimist, I have a solution. If you look around your office, I'm sure you'll find there are plenty of alternative places employees could have a quick nap - under their desks (the hard floor will help undo the havoc desk jobs wreak on your posture), on the couch in your staffroom that no one ever actually sits on or, as I've already tested, even a humble filing cabinet will do. Turns out that my small stature and ability to sleep anywhere will continue to come in handy until my employer decides to install proper nap pods. If you need me, just knock on the cabinet door.

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