Jan. 28, 2009 -- Having a happy marriage doesn't just make it easier to get through the day. It might also help women sleep better at night.
That's according to a new study that shows happily married women sleep more soundly than women who report less happy marriages.
Wendy Troxel, PhD, from the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, and her colleagues examined the data of 1,938 married women from 1996 to 1997. The researchers wanted to know whether middle-aged women (42 to 52) who report greater marital happiness also report fewer sleep disturbances, and if these are inextricably linked.
The researchers also analyzed whether the results differed across ethnic groups.
Participants were asked to rate their degree of happiness in their marriage from 1 to 7, with 7 being the happiest. They were also asked if they had difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or whether they woke early without being able to return to sleep.
The researchers looked at several 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.
Even after taking these into account, the researchers found that women with higher reported levels of happiness in marriage had a lower risk of sleep disturbances, compared to women who report less happiness in their marriages.
They also found that white women and African-American women tended to report more sleep complaints than Japanese, Hispanic, and Chinese women. The researchers say white women and Japanese women reported higher levels of marital happiness. General social support was not linked to 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," Troxel writes.
"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."