Dr Ruppanner says previous studies showed that men’s commitment to breadwinning, privileged men’s sleep over women’s.
She says earlier studies have shown that within working class American couples both men and women are saying ‘His sleep is more important than mine. I will sacrifice my sleep so that he gets restful sleep because he needs to be at his best tomorrow to bring in the money’.
“It is very interesting because women work as well and sleep is something that is essential for being at your best whether you are working or taking care of your kids.
“If you are at home taking care of your kids and you’re exhausted you’ll be a worse parent because of fatigue.
“We haven’t talked as a culture about who is entitled to sleep and who is entitled to leisure and why. And more importantly what are the consequences? I think the health consequences are equal for men and women.
“Women aren’t more capable of less sleep. You aren’t a different human being.
“I know I’m a worse parent when I’m tired. We protect co-workers by ensuring men get enough sleep but why don’t we protect the mothers and the children. The work mothers are doing at home is equally as valuable as the work at the office. They are raising the next workforce and citizens. We seem to think only paid work is important.”
Dr Ruppanner says it can be difficult for men too, if they are forced to conform to traditional views of masculinity.
She says men are placed under a great deal of pressure in patriarchal societies which can harm them by expecting them to conform to traditional views, which may cause them to abuse or neglect their health.
“If you imagine that gender is a social construct, you learn what it means to be male or a female,” Dr Ruppanner says.
“If you live in a more traditional culture i.e. homemaker/breadwinner, men bear more responsibility for the family finances than women.
“The idea of masculinity is that men are risk takers, they never get sick, they are always healthy, and they never go to a doctor.
“Masculinity is tied to strength. In more gender traditional cultures men are less healthy, less happy and more prone to risky behaviour. So included in this are that men don’t cry, men don’t get hurt, men don’t get sick or take days off. Men are invincible.
“It’s also tied to what workplaces want. You need workers to be productive, never sick, someone who is always there and always on call, no interruptions and no family demands. You don’t just work full time, you work overtime.
“So if that’s the message you’re getting and not the alternative - men are caring and can express emotions, men can be nurturers, you are more likely to engage in riskier and unhealthy behaviours.
“Although we don’t test this, if there’s a lot pressure and you’re the only one working and you can’t control the GDP and market forces and that’s waking you up at night, if you’re in a country where everyone is expected to share the housework, childcare and share the economic responsibility that takes a big load off men.
“Men in a gender equal country are healthier, happier and less risky in their behaviour. We are now saying in addition to that, they sleep better.
“For women, if you are empowered economically and your voice is equal to that of men you also have the right to stay in bed when the baby cries in the middle of the night.
“You sleep better because you can say to him ‘you’re getting up because I have to work tomorrow too’ because your job is as a co-parent.”