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Gender and Sleep Duration among American Adults

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionBurgard, Sarah, Jennifer Ailshire, and N. Michelle Hughes. 2009. "Gender and Sleep Duration among American Adults." PSC Research Report No. 09-693. December 2009.

Sleep is a basic human need and takes up more time in a day than any other activity, but we know surprisingly little about how gender shapes sleep duration in the general population. Previous research shows that women sleep longer than men do, but also report lower sleep quality and greater fatigue. These seemingly contradictory findings from different disciplinary literatures can be unified by drawing on theoretical debates about gender and time use, and by placing sleep time in the context of social roles – worker, spouse or partner, and parent – and the gendered expectations for their fulfillment. Data from the nationally-representative 2003-2007American Time Use Surveys show that the overall gender gap in sleep duration favors women, but varies with work and family responsibilities, and because of this it changes over adulthood. Moreover, this study provides novel empirical evidence of women’s greater likelihood of sleep interruption for caregiving work, particularly among parents of young children. The female advantage in sleep time is negligible in many comparisons made in this study, and is tempered by the greater burden of interrupted sleep that women face during the childbearing years and the larger male advantage in leisure time throughout midlife.

Country of focus: United States.

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