Sleep Disorders

10 June 2009

Happily married women sleep better

Being in a stable marriage or gaining a partner is associated with better sleep in women than being unmarried or losing a partner, according to research.

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Being stably married or gaining a partner is associated with better sleep in women than being unmarried or losing a partner, according to a research abstract that will be presented at Sleep 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Results show that women who were stably married or who had gained a partner during the eight years of the study had better sleep than women who were unmarried or who had lost a partner over the course of the study follow-up.

According to the study's lead author, Wendy Troxel (PhD, Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine), women who were stably married had the highest quality sleep measured objectively and subjectively, and these results persisted even after controlling for other known risk factors for sleep, including age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and depressive symptoms.

"Women who had 'gained' a partner over the eight years of the study had similar subjective sleep quality as compared to the stably married women; however, after looking at specific objective sleep measurements we discovered that these women had more restless sleep than the always married women," said Troxel.

"We speculate that these findings may reflect a 'newlywed effect' or simply the fact that these women may be less adjusted to sleeping with their partner than the 'stably married' women."

How the study was done
The study gathered data from 360 middle-aged African American, Caucasian, and Chinese women drawn from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, with a mean age of 51 years. Participants reported their current relationship status at annual visits. In-home polysomnographic (PSG) sleep studies were conducted over three successive nights six to eight years after baseline.

Subjects also wore wrist activity monitors, which provide a behavioural measure of sleep-wake patterns, for approximately one month.

Researchers examined the association between women's relationship histories and their sleep by analysing the sleep differences between women who were stably married, stably unmarried, or those who experienced a relationship transition (gaining or losing a partner) over the study follow-up period.

Troxel presented related findings at Sleep 2008, showing that marital happiness may lower the risk of sleep problems in Caucasian women, while marital strife may heighten the risk. "The current findings dovetail with our previous work, suggesting that relationship stability as well as quality may be important protective factors for women's sleep," said Dr Troxel. – (EurekAlert, June 2009)

Read more:
Keep smiling to stay married
Bad sleep affects outlook on life

 

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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