Educated Women Sleep More; Educated Men Sleep Less

A major study finds that education has opposite effects on the sleep habits of men and women.

Educated Women May Sleep Better (WebMD)

Higher education may help women sleep better at night, but it may have the opposite effect on men. Worldwide, women are twice as likely to suffer from insomniainsomnia as men, but a new study suggests that the more educated a woman is, the less likely she is to lose sleep. Researchers say that although biology is important in affecting insomnia risk, the results suggest that social factors such as educational achievement may also play a minor role.

In the study, which appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers surveyed nearly 40,000 men and women in Taiwan. The participants answered questions about their marital status, employment, educational attainment, household income, and the number of children living in the home. Insomnia symptoms were also measured and scored on a scale from 1 to 5. Overall, women averaged 1.25 points higher on the insomnia scale than men regardless of socioeconomic status.

Interesting. One would think this result is spurious, masking some other variable. Still, the brain is still a huge mystery.

Women with more education get better sleep, study suggests
(CBC News)

The study suggested long working hours were to blame for insomnia in men: Those with higher positions, usually men in Taiwan, had correspondingly greater education, and were required to work more hours. Divorced or separated women appeared to have the highest levels of insomnia. Researchers suggested the stress associated with single parenthood, loss of income, or the stigma of a marriage breakdown could be possible factors. Other factors that could cause greater insomnia in women were menstrual cycles including menopause, night-day body temperature fluctuations, depression and anxiety, the researchers wrote.

But even after accounting for these factors, the researchers still found that they could not fully explain why women get less sleep. “The sex discrepancy in insomnia narrowed slightly after taking social role factors into consideration but was not explained by socioeconomic status,” the authors wrote. “The persistent sex gap in insomnia warrants further investigation.”

The researchers cited other studies that have shown that women get less good sleep than men in most cultures around the world. But they said this could not be totally explained by child rearing and other domestic responsibilities.

While I’m often very skeptical of medical studies, which tend to be based on small, unrepresentative samples, this sounds like a well structured, large survey that controls for all the obvious variables. The results here are quite intriguing.

The full study is available in PDF format.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.