Science just pulled a fast one on me. Last week, I was raising the roof about how a study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that sleep deprivation doesn't slow down women, as potently as men. Now, a study from the University of Pittburgh School of Medicine seems to throw a monkey wrench in that notion.
The study examined the sleep patterns among 32 married couples, along with "how they felt about marital communications for 10 days." Turns out that wives who didn't get a good night's rest were total cranks the next day, which made for unpleasant cohabitating. "The most negative ratings from both husbands and wives came after nights when wives had trouble falling asleep."
Conclusion? When wives don't catch enough winks, the entire marriage suffers. The researchers also noted that sleep-deprived husbands didn't exert the same wet blanket effect. But in my mind, this doesn't jive with that finding I mentioned earlier that poorly rested women power through their work weeks more effectively than bleary-eyed menfolk. If women are such marriage-draining sourpusses when they don't sleep well, doesn't it seem like their professional life might suffer as well? Or maybe women simply forge on at the office and release all of their fatigue-induced unpleasantness at home? More studies, please!
These seemingly contradictory findings also underscore how study results are often whittled down from complex methodologies into media-friendly scraps of information for the public to gobble down. It's like looking at a chicken nugget and erroneously perceiving the entire bird on your plate.
In the case of these two studies, they're examining very small groups (fewer than 65 people in both) of participants with varying ages. Also, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine tested participants sleeping by themselves, while the Pittsburgh research focused on people sharing beds. Neither address external factors, such as employment, childcare, income and so forth that could have direct impacts on sleep cycles. I'm not saying that sleep researchers are hacks. This is simply a reminder to rest easier at night because alarming science-y headlines should provoke questions ("why aren't these wives sleeping well to begin with?") rather than serve as gospel answers.