In Brief

When working women toss and turn it may be because they lack emotional support and social interaction, according to a study in the January issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology (Vol. 10, No. 1).

Using data from Multinational Monitoring of Trends and Determinants in Cardiovascular Disease (MONICA)--a research project involving 623 female and 556 male workers--lead researcher and public health and psychology graduate student Maria Nordin, of Umea University in Sweden, and her colleagues investigated the relationship between sleep and psychosocial factors.

MONICA is a World Health Organization project that collects survey data on heart attacks and strokes in 37 countries. Survey questions assess the relationship between changes in cardiovascular risk factors in the population and changes in the incidence of coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. The survey also includes an extended questionnaire dealing with psychosocial matters, including assessments of social support, stress and quality of sleep.

The researchers found that 25 percent of the women slept poorly--6 percent more than the proportion of men who reported problems sleeping.

The results also showed a significant relationship between low social support and disturbed sleep in women, but not in men. Nordin surmises that the gender disparity is due to women's tendencies to seek and provide social support, even within relationships that lead to stress or depression.

"Women take on others' problems and make them their own," Nordin says. "They become drained by others' demands, which can lead them to stress or depression."

Nordin notes the study also showed that general social support mattered more to women's sleep than traditional psychosocial work factors, such as workplace demands and feelings of lacking control in the workplace, perhaps because many of women's stressors lie outside the office.