Study Objectives: To examine whether current and/or history of marital/cohabitation status are associated with sleep, independent of demographic and general health risk factors.
Design: Longitudinal, observational study of women, with sleep measured via multi-night in-home polysomnography and up to 35 nights of actigraphy.
Setting: Participants’ homes.
Participants: Caucasian (n = 170), African American (n = 138), and Chinese women (n = 59); mean age 51 years.
Measurements: Sleep quality was assessed via questionnaire. Sleep duration, continuity, and architecture were calculated using in-home polysomnography (PSG). Sleep continuity was also assessed by actigraphy. Categories of marital/cohabiting status or changes in status were inclusive of women who were legally married or living as married as well as transitions into or out of those partnership categories.
Results: Partnered (married or cohabiting) women at the time of the sleep study had better sleep quality and PSG and actigraphy-assessed sleep continuity than unpartnered women; however, with covariate adjustment, most of these associations became non-significant. Analyses of women’s relationship histories over the 6-8 years prior to the sleep study showed advantages in sleep for women who were consistently partnered versus women who were unpartnered throughout this interval, or those who had lost or gained a partner over that time course. These results persisted after adjusting for potential confounders.
Conclusions: The stable presence of a partner is an independent correlate of better sleep quality and continuity in women.
Keywords: Marriage, marital transition, women, menopause, sleep