Having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Greater gender equality could help with that.
Scientists have found that couples who live in countries with more gender equality sleep better. In a study of approximately 7,000 couples from 23 different European countries, researchers found that the demands of stereotypical gender roles decrease the sleep quality of both men and women.
Women — traditionally expected to care for their families and households — were frequently interrupted in their sleep by children under the age of five. And while both men and women experienced lowered sleep quality due to job-related stresses, men were more likely to sleep restlessly because of financial concerns and worries about providing for their family.
Though both men and women experienced different stresses, the study found their sleep quality was not valued equally within many couples.
“Men’s breadwinner status and their greater contribution to family finances were used as justification by both partners to protect men’s sleep over women’s,” Leah Ruppanner and David Maume, the study’s co-authors, wrote in The Conversation. “Men were seen to have a greater right to restful sleep than women, given their need to ‘be at their best’ for work the next day.”
As a result, improving gender equality within a society would have a positive impact on women’s quality of sleep in particular, though the study showed improved sleep, health, and happiness among men, too.
In countries with higher levels of gender equality and societies with a more equal division of labor, the gender gap in sleep quality is narrower, according to the study. When men and women share the burden of work both in and out of the home, concerns over childcare and financial stability are more evenly distributed as well, resulting in a better night’s sleep.
Though Iceland leads the way in establishing gender equality, to date, no country has achieved full gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.
Increasing gender equality around the world is about much more than sleep quality — improving gender equality can help generate economic growth, push societies forward, and enable countries to thrive. It’s about ensuring that half the world’s population has equal access to opportunities so that the whole world can succeed.