Study Says Men and Women Would Both Sleep Better in Gender-Equal Societies

Couple Sleeping

Syda Productions / AdobeStock

AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
Insomnia is far from uncommon — in fact, it'is the most common specific sleep disorder with about 30 percent of adults reporting short-term issues and about 10 percent reporting chronic insomnia, according to the Sleep Association. This means that a good chunk of the population isn't getting the sleep they need, as 37 percent of 20- to 39-year-olds and 40 percent of 40- to 59-year-olds also report short sleep duration, and as more than 35 percent of all adults say they're sleeping less than seven hours each night. 
Of course, disturbed sleep can lead to a host of health problems and can also affect our mindfulness, productivity, thinking and decision making. But a new study, "Gender Equality and Restless Sleep Among Partnered Europeans," offers a possible solution. The research suggests that the daily demands of family for women, and the daily demands of work for men, mean that women and men aren't getting the quality sleep they need. But when those demands are more equally managed, both women and men sleep better.
"Women's sleep was more troubled by the presence of children in the home and partners' unemployment, whereas men's restless sleep was associated with their own unemployment and worries about household finances," the study found.
The study looked at 14,143 partnered people from 23 European countries, and the results suggest that in 22 of the 23 countries, more women than men reported that their sleep was restless in the week prior. Women generally viewed the nighttime as an extension of their daytime obligations to family as opposed to a time for relaxation and restoration. Sleep-deprived mothers were more likely to be called to comfort young children in the night, and mothers of teenagers were more likely than fathers to stay up all night worrying about their children's safety if they're out with friends. Most of the women's sleep, in general, was interrupted by children under five. Men, on the other hand, generally viewed nighttime as a time to recover and prepare for work. They were more likely to be up late stressing over financial situations or the next day's work. In fact, for both women and men alike, stressful jobs lead to less sleep.
That said, couples living in more gender-equal countries seemed to get better sleep. When family and work obligations were more evenly delegated, couples could sleep better at night. In gender-equal societies, women have a more equal division of housework as men take a more active role in childcare. And men don't have to bear the weight of the family's finances alone. When societies are more effective in equalizing economic and political gender relations, women and men alike benefit from better health, more reported happiness and better-quality sleep.
And since sleep is such an integral part of our health and happiness, societies as a whole benefit from well-rested citizens.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at by night.