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School of Human Sciences Sleep, Health and Gender Inequalities - A New Perspective 4 th October 2005, Cambridge Sara Arber and Jenny Hislop Centre for.

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Presentation on theme: "School of Human Sciences Sleep, Health and Gender Inequalities - A New Perspective 4 th October 2005, Cambridge Sara Arber and Jenny Hislop Centre for."— Presentation transcript:

1 School of Human Sciences Sleep, Health and Gender Inequalities - A New Perspective 4 th October 2005, Cambridge Sara Arber and Jenny Hislop Centre for Research on Ageing & Gender (CRAG) Department of Sociology University of Surrey, Guildford, UK Email: S.Arber@surrey.ac.ukS.Arber@surrey.ac.uk UniS

2 Acknowledgements This research was supported by: the European Union Sleep in Ageing Women project, grant QLK6-CT-2000-00499 (2001-04) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Negotiating Sleep: Gender, Age and Social Relationships among Couples, grant RES-000-23-0268 (2003-06). Assisted by Jenny Hislop, Rob Meadows and Sue Venn

3 Sleep – under researched by sociologists …... Surprising – because spend a third of our lives asleep Sleep is fundamental to well-being and health - a major cause of accidents, important for cognitive functioning, increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, etc. Sleep is part of everyday life – therefore may provide a window on everyday roles and relationships The sleeping context may be contested, and the site where power is played out

4 Sleep – under researched by sociologists …... Sociologists have extensively studied other areas of everyday life, e.g. - food and diet in families - leisure activities - household work - caring for children/ older people Sociologists study the body - but links to sleep are only beginning to be made - e.g. Simon Williams work

5 Sleep can be studied as a - TOPIC and/or as a RESOURCE

6 Sociologists studying sleep - as a TOPIC Identify the sociological/social factors influencing the quality of sleep, e.g. - social context of everyday life (partners, other family members, social roles and responsibilities) - roles in the public sphere (e.g. work/education) - constraints of expectations, worries about, etc. Identify how to improve quality of sleep through awareness of social factors, strategies used Assess impact of poor sleep on aspects of everyday life of self and others (family members, etc)

7 Sociologists studying sleep - as a RESOURCE (I) Studying sleep provides sociological insights/ understandings about other aspects of society, social inequalities, social relationships, which were hitherto hidden e.g. 1) Understanding more about intimate relationships between partners, within families - reflects power relationships, patterns of control, inequality, emotional labour - much of which may be unspoken, unrecognised and implicit. These only become revealed through a close analysis of discourses and practices surrounding sleep

8 Sociologists studying sleep - as a RESOURCE (2) - Further examples 2) Sleeping arrangements reflect broader societal/cultural norms and values - Married partners ought to sleep in the same bed/room - if they do not, this signifies a poor marital relationship/ stigmatised; Children should have their own room. Differences between cultures/historically? 3) Discourses about sleep provide insights about the meaning of masculinity and femininity - sleep is for wimps; its macho to need (or be able to cope with) little sleep; vs getting your beauty sleep - these also have health (promotion) implications…

9 Our research addresses Sleep as both a TOPIC and a RESOURCE: Takes place in the real world (eg. peoples homes) rather than in sleep clinics or laboratories – sleep in labs is abnormal Acknowledges the social context of sleep Examines interrelationship between social roles, relationships, life events and transitions and sleep – gender is fundamental to all of these Focuses on normal sleep disruption rather than specific sleep disorders

10 Sleep in Ageing Women Project Funded by the European Union for 3 years 2001-2004 Cross-national: team members from Finland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and the UK Cross-disciplinary: integration of sociology with biological sciences A study of the sleep experiences of women aged 40 & over Multiple methods: –Qualitative: 15 focus groups, 35 in-depth interviews, and 35 audio sleep diaries –Quantitative: postal questionnaire 1445 women age 40+

11 Negotiating Sleep among Couples Project Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), 2003-06 Intensive study of 40 couples aged 20s to 50s 10 couples in 20s/ 30s without children 10 couples in 20s/ 30s with children (usually young) 10 couples in 40s/ 50s with children (usually teenage) 10 couples in 40s/ 50s without children at home Cross-disciplinary: mainly Sociology but includes some techniques used by biological scientists Male and Female interviewers - for couple interviews Multiple methods

12 Negotiating Sleep among Couples Project - Methods used Couple interview (indepth) – initial one-to-one interviews with men were less successful. Couple interview like a mini focus group – reveals sensitive data Audio-sleep diaries for one week – both partners Actigraphic recordings for one week – both partners Standard scientific sleep tests/diaries Individual interviews with each partner after 4 weeks New EU funding will extend the research to include couples in their 60s and 70s – will start in 2006

13 Qualitative research – (1) Audio sleep diaries Soon after waking in the morning Record using a mini taperecorder – everything about their nights sleep E.g. when went to bed, did they go straight to sleep, Did they wake during the night, If so, what did they do? Overall feelings about the night, etc. Compare responses of partners

14 Audio sleep diaries – produced very rich data Eileen – 46, married, 3 children (10-13), part-time wk Thursday I actually slept pretty well last night. Went to bed at 11.30 again, slept very deeply and very well til about 5. Didnt actually sleep in my own bed because my husband had gone to bed at 9 and was in full snore by the time I got there...… Oh, Ive just remembered my daughter woke me up at about 2 in the morning because shed had an accident in her bed and wet herself so I was awake for a few minutes trying to deal with that but went straight back to sleep.

15 Audio sleep diaries – produced very rich data Gwen – 59, divorced, 2 children (left home), lives alone but has a partner, works full-time Each night she wakes during the night, and in order to get back to sleep she turns on the World Service on the radio. On Saturday night, her partner stays over. But when she wakes during the night, she cant adopt her usual strategy for getting back to sleep. So, she leaves the partner in her bed, and goes to sleep in the spare room.

16 Qualitative research – (2) Focus Groups 5 age groups of women ( 3 F.Gs per age grp) 40-47; 48-52, 53-59; 60-69; 70+ Reveal socially unacceptable behaviours – via support of others Snoring Temporary and permanent relocation When use sleeping pills and over the counter remedies

17 Qualitative research – (3) Indepth Interviews With women across age range – 40 up Indepth narratives about everyday sleep How their sleep has changed across the life course, e.g. effects of adolescent children, serious illhealth of partner, divorce, widowhood, etc. Narratives about sleep difficulties and how they dealt with them

18 Qualitative research – Insights, but how representative How normal is sleep disruption? What causes sleep disruption? How do gender and age impact on quality of sleep? To what extent do partners disturb womens sleep – and for which women? How does care for young children, teenage children, partners, elderly parents impact on womens and mens sleep? BUT lack of existing large datasets which collect data on sleep – so current potential for secondary analysis is very limited

19 About the Womens Sleep in the UK Survey, 2003 Nationally representative sample of 5000 women aged 35 and over from across the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, N. Ireland) Drawn from electoral register and census data all of which is in public domain Postal questionnaire: 48 items over 12 pages N=1445, women aged 40+

20 Survey content 1.About your sleep: quality, satisfaction, duration, problems, changes, impact of poor sleep 2.Influences on sleep: environmental, physical, psychological, children, partner 3.Managing sleep: strategies women use to cope with sleep loss, eg. self-directed activities, OTC medications, alternative therapies, sleeping pills 4.Health and well-being: health status, life events, menopausal status, HRT use, GP consultation, sleep disorders, lifestyle factors 5.Socio-demographics: age, marital status, education, occupation, income

21 Sleep problems Sleep problems are a normal feature of womens sleep Only 4% of respondents say they never experience sleep problems 75% of respondents say they experience sleep problems at least sometimes 33% of respondents say they experience sleep problems often or always

22 Type of problem% respondents overall* Waking several times during the night 50 Feel sleepy during the day 37 Wake up tired and unrefreshed35 Disturbed, restless sleep34 Wake up too early25 Difficulty falling asleep 22 Difficulty waking up4 * Experiencing problem 3 or more nights a week Figure 1: Types of sleep problems, women 40+ © EU 2003 Womens Sleep in the UK Survey

23 Figure 3: Sleep disturbance* from worries about the family, work, loneliness, and money by age * at least 3 times a week Women aged 40 and over Source: Womens Sleep in the UK Survey 2003

24 Figure 4: Sleep disturbance* from going to the toilet, feeling hot, and pain by age * at least 3 times a week Women aged 40 and over Source: Womens Sleep in the UK Survey 2003

25 eg. Children: - young children: coming into parents bedroom or calling out during the night - teenagers: coming home late, listening to loud music -partners: snoring; going to the toilet; disturbed by partners illhealth - caring for an older frail, disabled or cognitively impaired spouse, parent or other relative For most women, sleeping is a shared experience. Womens sleep quality is influenced by their relationships with children and partners.

26 partner snoring (23%) partner getting up early (13%) partner going to the toilet (13%) The three main partner behaviours reported by women as affecting their sleep 3 or more nights a week are: Source: 2003 Womens Sleep in the UK Survey

27 Figure 5: Sleep disturbance* from partners snoring and going to the toilet by womans age * at least 3 times a week Women aged 40 and over

28 88% of couples share a double bed 12% sleep apart - 2% in twin beds in same room - 10% in separate rooms Sleeping arrangements are age-related The only way to ensure quality of sleep is to be in my own bed and room. The onset of menopause gave me an excuse to do this. Hot flushes at night make sleep impossible if you share a bed! (Age: 66) Source: 2003 Womens Sleep in the UK Survey The double bed is not the only option available for partnered women in our study:

29 Figure 3: Sleeping arrangements by age* Major increase in incidence of couples sleeping apart from the age of 60. 28% of couples no longer sleep in same bed after the age of 60 Almost twice as many couples aged 70 and over are sleeping apart cf. those in their 60s. * Women aged 40 and over © EU 2003 Womens Sleep in the UK Survey

30 Conclusions Womens and mens sleep patterns are embedded in the gender roles and relationships which characterise their lives As sleep is located in the private sphere, for many women, their husband/partner is a key factor in structuring womens sleep Teenage/adult children (as well as young children) have an impact on parents sleep, especially womens sleep Midlife women (in their 50s) have the most disrupted sleep, because of:- -stresses associated with full-time work, -continuing caring responsibilities for children and ageing parents -Partners snoring, getting up during the night, partners health, etc -Menopause and womens own health Women are more conscious than men of the need to have a good nights sleep, and develop more personal strategies to try to attain this (often unattainable) goal.

31 Jenny Hislop and Sara Arber (2003) Sleepers wake! The gendered nature of sleep disruption among mid-life women, Sociology, 37(4): 695-711. Jenny Hislop and Sara Arber (2003) Understanding womens sleep management: Beyond medicalisations-healthisation? Sociology of Health and Illness, 25 (7): 815-837 Jenny Hislop and Sara Arber (2003) Sleep as a social act: A window on gender roles and relationships in S. Arber et al. (eds) Gender and Ageing: Changing Roles and Relationships, Maidenhead: Open University Press.

32 Thank you for your attention


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