According to a study of more than 14,000 people in 23 European countries, both sexes benefit from better sleep in countries where men take a more active role in childcare and more women have high-powered jobs.
The research was conducted by a team of sociologists at the University of Melbourne, who analysed data from the United Nations’ gender empowerment index and figures on reported sleep quality taken from the European Social Survey.
Britain ranks just above average on the UN's index, which takes into account the number of women in senior roles and the gender pay gap. The study found that 14 per cent of men in the UK and 20 per cent of women suffer from restless sleep
Norway ranks highest on the index, with just three per cent of men and nine per cent of women reporting restless sleep.
Meanwhile, Ukraine was rated lowest, with sleep disturbance levels rising to 16 per cent for men and 22 per cent for women.
While there is no clear way to explain the link, lead author Leah Ruppannear believes it might be down to gender equality reducing the pressures and anxieties in families that might lead to sleep disturbance.
For example, the study found that women’s sleep was more likely to be disturbed by young children and family obligations while men’s sleep was more likely to be affected by workplace demands and worries about household finances.
When these responsibilities are more evenly-distributed in nations that empower women, Ruppannear suggests that both sexes may benefit from better-quality sleep as a result.
“As more families balance work and family demands, who gets the right to restful and restorative sleep is increasingly important,” she writes for The Conversation.
“Gender, an important organiser of our daytime lives, also plays a crucial role in who gets up comfort the baby and whose sleep is disrupted worrying about family finances.
“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. So, let’s work together to get to bed.”
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