Happily Married Women Have Less Trouble Sleeping, Pitt Study Finds

Issue Date: 
March 2, 2009


It is no secret that a good night’s sleep can lead to a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle, but the age-old question of how to get a decent eight hours still remains. However, a University of Pittsburgh study finds that a

happy marriage can lead to a better night’s sleep for women. The findings are reported in the journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

The Pitt study finds that women who believe they have happy marriages reported less difficulty falling asleep, less likelihood of waking up during the night or too early in the morning, and less restless sleep compared to women who report less happiness in their marriages.

“Women consistently report more sleep problems than men, but most research has focused on how husbands’ sleep problems, such as sleep apnea or snoring, affect their wives’ sleep quality,” said Wendy Troxel, lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “These findings, however, provide an understanding of how having a happy and fulfilling marriage can affect women and their sleep habits.”

The study examined the association between marital happiness and sleep disturbances in multiple ethnic groups of married or partnered women. Researchers found that Caucasian and African American women had more sleep complaints than Japanese, Hispanic, and Chinese women. Caucasian and Japanese women reported the highest marital happiness.

In assessing the effects of marital happiness on sleep, the researchers considered many other factors that might contribute to sleeplessness, such as a woman’s social support network, depressive symptoms, economic hardship and employment status, alcohol and caffeine consumption, presence of children in the home, sexual activity, age, and hormonal status. The results showed that even after taking into account all of these factors, the level of marital happiness emerged as an independent risk factor for the existence of sleep disturbances.

“General social support was not associated with sleep disturbances, which suggests that there may be something specific about happiness in one’s marriage that is associated with better sleep, rather than a general reflection of one’s support network,” added Troxel. “The findings further suggest that feeling happy in one’s marriage may present benefits for sleep that go beyond being a ‘happy’ or well-adjusted person.”

Study participants were from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, a multisite study from seven sites across the country comprised of an ethnically diverse sample of middle-aged women, with grant support from the National Institutes of Health and its Office of Research on Women’s Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Nursing Research.