Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Caregivers and Sleep

From the current issue of Stanford's Pathways, a publication on poverty, inequality and social policy:

AYawning Gap

As the 24/7 economy continues to spread and take hold, a rising number of workers are being asked to work evenings, nights,

weekends, and rotating shifts. These “nonstan- dard work schedules,” which are especially promi- nent among low-income workers, can be difficult to reconcile with family responsibilities. If the children and spouses of such nonstandard work- ers are operating on a standard daytime schedule, the result may be a “burn the candle at both ends” lifestyle in which sleep is compromised. Although the candle-burning lifestyle is clearly increasing in frequency, we don’t know too much about that lifestyle and, in particular, who is participating in it. Are, for example, men or women losing more sleep because of nonstandard work schedules?

According to new research by David J. Maume, Rachel A. Sebastian, and Anthony R. Bardo, the preliminary answer is that women are the main sufferers here. Drawing on a survey of 583 retail food workers who were working nonstandard schedules, the authors found that women expe- rienced significantly more sleep disruptions than did men. Although underlying health differences between men and women accounted for some of this difference, the more important reason why women suffer from disrupted sleep is that they tend to be responsible for caregiving. The simple implication: If you have to combine a nonstan- dard work schedule with caregiving, the only way to get by is to steal from sleep. And hence a new “yawning gap” is emerging right beside the more famous gap in pay.

David J. Maume, Rachel A. Sebastian, and Anthony R. Bardo. 2009. “Gender Differences in Sleep Disruption among Retail Food Workers.” American Sociological Re- view, 74(6), 989-1007.

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