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Sleep problems differ for men and women

The government says about a third of American adults don't get the seven hours of sleep they should, and insomnia is more prevalent among women than men
Men and women have separate sleep clocks 03:39

As a nation we are severely sleep-deprived. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as much as a third of all Americans do not get the recommended seven hours of sleep a night.

"One of the myths is that we can power through or sleep when we're dead," Dr. Charles Czeisler, chair of the National Sleep Foundation and director of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, told "CBS This Morning." "But of course we'll get there faster if we don't get enough sleep. "

Women and men run into different roadblocks when it comes to their quest for a good night's sleep.

Women are more likely to toss and turn frequently and fight bouts of insomnia, a result of differences in hormonal regulation. Estrogen tends to shorten the length of the sleep cycle, which is why women often report that they experience sleep troubles around the time of menstruation, pregnancy or menopause.

According to a poll taken by the National Sleep Foundation, 63 percent of women versus 54 percent of men experience insomnia at least few nights a week. Women are also more likely to experience daytime sleepiness.

"One of the things is the internal clock controls the timing of sleep," said Czeisler. "It runs faster in women than it does men. It's only about a tenth of an hour but it adds up so that women, in general, their internal clocks are set to about an hour or an hour and half earlier than men, and that means it wakes them up earlier in the morning and it's harder to stay awake in the evening."

On the other hand, anatomical differences in men mean they're more likely to have sleep apnea -- a result of more fat deposit around the neck. Approximately 17 percent of men and 9 percent of women are diagnosed with sleep apnea, a type of sleep disorder that is caused by infrequent or paused breathing.

"If you crowd out the airway then you're going to have trouble when you sleep," said Czeisler. "One out of 3 men and about 1 out of 6 women suffer from disturbed sleep disordered breathing. But unfortunately, because it tends to be viewed as a male dominated disease women are much less likely to be diagnosed. Only 1 out of 10 women compared with men get diagnosed for sleep apnea."

Regardless of these challenges, everyone can take a number of measures to avoid sleep deprivation. Czeisler says good sleep hygiene is essential, such as going to bed at the same time each night to regulate your circadian rhythm. Some people find it helpful to set an alarm for bedtime. Creating a bedroom that's conducive to sleeping is also essential: remove all electronics from the bedroom and keep your room cool and dark.

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