The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Intact Marriages, Restful Nights

Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King

Medical authorities increasingly recognize that individuals who get sufficient good sleep enjoy a tremendous health advantage over those who do not. But in a study recently completed at Emory University School of Medicine and Mayo College of Medicine, researchers established that, at least among women, a wedding ring may signal a distinct advantage in obtaining that precious slumber.

The Emory and Mayo scholars launched a new study of sleep among American women in large part because they recognized how important sleep is for well-being. “The importance of sleep for physical and mental health is well-documented,” they write, noting that “clear associations have been established between sleep disturbances and serious medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.” The researchers also highlight the connection between inadequate sleep and impaired immune function, unhealthily elevated body weight, and psychological illness. Beyond such health concerns, the researchers point out that sleep deficiencies have been implicated in “human errors that [have] cost billions of dollars and compromise[d] productivity.”

To identify the social and personal predictors of sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep adequacy, the researchers pored over data collected from 2,670 women ages 18 to 55 (74 percent Hispanic, 18 percent non-Hispanic White, 8 percent non-Hispanic Black) living in southeast Texas. Repeatedly, marital status emerged as a relevant consideration in these data.

“Longer sleep durations were associated with being married,” the researchers report. In addition, the researchers trace a statistical association between marital status and “perceived sleep adequacy” (p < 0.05). In both simple univariable analysis and more sophisticated multiple-regression analysis, marital status also predicted sleep quality, with married women enjoying better sleep than unmarried peers (p < 0.05 in the univariable analysis and p < 0.01 in the multiple-regression model).

Quite understandably, the researchers conclude intent on “translating research findings on sleep . . . into the clinical setting [as] a critical next step toward improving the health and well-being of women.” Cultural change that would put more women into enduring marriages would appear to be an important part of any long-term strategy for giving women better sleep and healthier lives.

(Alisa B. Kachis and Carmen Radecki Breitkopf, “Predictors of Sleep Characteristics among Women in Southeast Texas,” Women’s Health Issues 22.1 [2012]: e99-e109.)