Why Women Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Why Women Don’t Get Enough Sleep


shutterstock_219369781Over at the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington has joined with the Glamour editor Cindi Leive to make a New Year’s resolution. They vow to get more sleep this year, and they urge the rest of us to follow their lead.

In a chatty essay — “Women, It’s Time to Sleep Our Way to the Top. Literally” — they note that Americans are sleep deprived and that women are far more so than men. Women with children and jobs are more sleep deprived than women without either, they tell us, making this fodder for a parenting blog.

Because, as a parent, I have a teensy bone to pick with Huffington and Leive. Everything about their “get more sleep” campaign — at least what they have written so far, as they still have a month to go — makes it sound as though it is primarily our fault that we aren’t sleeping. They write:

Getting a good night’s sleep, of course, is easier said than done. You have to tune out a host of temptations, from Letterman to the PTA to your e-mail inbox — and most of all, to ignore the workaholic wisdom that says you’re lazy for not living up to the example set by Madonna, Martha Stewart and other notorious self-professed never-sleepers. Of course, the truth is the opposite: You’ll be much more likely to be a professional powerhouse if you’re not asleep at the wheel. (Even Bill Clinton, who used to famously get only five hours of sleep, later admitted, “Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired.” Huh! ) The problem is that women often feel that they still don’t “belong” in the boys-club atmosphere that still dominates many workplaces. So they often attempt to compensate by working harder and longer than the next guy. Hard work helps women fit in and gain a measure of security. And because it works, they begin to do more and more and more of it until they can’t stop. But it’s a Pyrrhic victory: The workaholism leads to lack of sleep, which in turn leads to never being able to do your best. In fact, many women do this on purpose, fueled by the mistaken idea that getting enough sleep means you must be lazy or less than passionate about your work and your life.

Um, no. The reason women don’t sleep as well as men is not because of our misguided workaholic tendencies, or our short-sighted need to prove ourselves, but because the world, as it is constructed, gives women more to DO. Particularly during the hours when we should be sleeping. READ MORE