Science Says Gender Equality Helps You Sleep Better & The Research Makes So Much Sense

by Julia Guerra

You’re probably well aware by now that things like stress, the foods you eat, and the amount of caffeine you drink throughout the day are all factors to consider when you aren’t getting much sleep. But what if none of those things are an issue — at least, not enough to actually affect your beauty rest? Apparently, new research says gender equality helps people sleep, which means tossing and turning all night might be less of a personal blip and more of a societal issue, so if you’re looking for an alternative scapegoat, look no further than good ol’ gender roles.

I know it sounds kind of random, and maybe even a little irrelevant because, I mean, what the heck does something like gender equality have to do with your body's ability to sleep, right? Well, the results of a new study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, suggest that gender equality may actually play a very significant role in your sleep schedule, so even if you can’t fix gender norms outside the homestead all on your own, it might be worth it to reevaluate how things work between you and bae in the name of a better night’s sleep.

Science says your sleep quality could depend on how your country approaches gender equality, so there’s something new to consider if your shut-eye is lacking.

Though America has come a long way in terms of redefining its society's definition of gender equality, there’s still a heck of a long way to go, and it turns out, the proof may be in your sleep quality. To test this theory, The Independent reports that sociologists from the University of Melbourne evaluated the concept of whether gender equality helps you sleep by analyzing over 14,000 citizens from 23 different European countries, as well as stats drawn from the United Nations’ gender empowerment index, and the sleep quality results from a European survey.

The results showed that couples from Norway came out on top, with a mere 3 percent of men and 9 percent of women dealing with “restless sleep” — but the question isn’t really how many people aren’t sleeping well; it’s more about why people aren’t sleeping well. According to the study, the authors found that in “nations that empower women and elevate their status, men and women alike report sounder sleep, and the gender gap in restless sleep is significantly reduced among those living in gender‐equal countries.” In other words, people who live in countries that focus on maintaining equality between men and women seem to enjoy better sleep overall compared to people who live in countries that don't prioritize gender equality as much.

Though the research heavily focused on gender roles in the context of family matters, it's still a prime example of how initiating more gender-equal practices could benefit everyone.

I know myself, and I’ve definitely wondered what it would be like for me and my husband to have a child. What responsibilities will fall on whose shoulders? Who’s going to wake up in the middle of the night for feedings, or be in charge of dirty diapers? I recognize how lucky I am to have a husband who’s expressed he's more than willing to do his part despite the gender roles society may have tried to assign us, but a lot of households are still abiding by the silly ideals that men should focus on finances, being the fixer-upper around the house, and nothing more.

These are the kinds of couples who may be struggling more to get a decent night’s sleep, according to the findings illustrated by study lead author Leah Ruppannear and her team. It’s unfortunate, sure, but this newfound correlation is also fascinating when you think about it because, really, would you have associated gender equality with quality of sleep? It's certainly something I've never considered until now, but if you ask Ruppannear, the link between the two is really a no-brainer.

In an article for The Conversation, the researcher explained that when gender equality is valued and practiced in a society, women tend to feel more at-ease and appreciated, while men also reap "a host of benefits including men reporting better health and happiness," all of which reflects in everyone's sleep schedules. Ruppannear wrote,

Societies that are more effective in equalising economic and political gender relations have citizens who sleep better. Since sleep is an integral dimension to health and wellbeing, the economic, health and social benefit to being well-rested cannot be understated.

Amazing as this news is, being able to clock in six to eight hours of significantly better sleep is just one of so many benefits of gender equality. Things like improved economic growth — meaning that when more women are in the workplace, there's more money coming into the country — healthier minds and bodies, and stronger, healthier families, are just a few examples of how everyone can benefit from a more equal society.

It sounds pretty sweet, right? But here's the catch: The only way to take advantage of these benefits, is to put them into practice. So if nothing else but for the sake of a good night's sleep, why not start now?