Gender equality is not just good for business, it's good for sleep

Gender equality is not just good for business, it’s good for sleep

sleeping cat
We’ve seen the evidence that gender equality is good for business and good for the economy, but this latest research puts a new spin on the benefits: couples in more gender equal societies sleep better.

Who doesn’t want better sleep?

And imagine the flow-on effects to workplaces, productivity, relationships, and our healthcare system if we could all just get more shut-eye.

The sleep data comes from researchers including Leah Ruppanner from the University of Melbourne.

Their study of 14,143 people in relationships across 23 European countries found that in 22 of those countries, more women than men indicated they experienced restless sleep in the week prior.

They found that women experienced disrupted sleep if they had children under five, while men experienced more restless sleep if they felt dissatisfied with their family’s financial situation.

Stressful work was found to be affecting the sleep of both men and women.

But in more gender equal societies? Men and women are sleeping better. The researchers determined such ‘gender equal’ societies according to the United Nations gender empowerment index, which considers the gender pay gap and the number of women in senior positions among other factors.

They found such equality means more restful sleep for women — possibly because they have slightly less to do and worry about. Men in such societies were also reporting better sleep.

The researchers also found that the sleep of men was often protected over women’s sleep in couples with a male breadwinner. The belief is often that men need to ‘be at their best’ for the day ahead, meaning it’s up to women to deal with whatever comes up during the night — and when you have kids, a lot of things come up during the night.

No prizes for who can guess where couples are getting the most sleep: Norway. It ranks highest on the UN index, and also had the lowest rate of restless sleep, at 3% for men and 9% for women.

That compares to the Ukraine, with 16% of men reporting restless sleep and 22% of women.

And in the UK, which is just above average on the UN index, 14% of men and 20% of women were found to report restless sleep

Sleep is an important lever in not only promoting good physical and mental health, but also in creating productive workplaces that ultimately boost our economy. The gender equality link is one that’s worth exploring further.


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