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Study: Sleep patterns of Canadians

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The Daily

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On the whole, women get more sleep than men, but they also have a tougher time getting to sleep and staying asleep, according to a new study.

The study, "Who gets any sleep these days? Sleep patterns of Canadians," also showed that commuting has an impact on sleep, as does an individual's level of income and marital status.

On average, someone who made $60,000 or more a year slept 40 minutes less on any given day in 2005 than someone who made $20,000. High-income Canadians tend to dedicate more time to their paid work, spend less time with their children and less time engaged in leisure activities. As a result, their lifestyle has an impact on their sleep patterns.

The study, published today in the Spring 2008 edition of Canadian Social Trends, used data from the 2005 General Social Survey (GSS) on time use.

The GSS asked more than 19,500 respondents aged 15 and over to complete a detailed record of the time they spent on all activities on a given day. This diary included the time they fell asleep that evening and the time they woke up the next morning.

Men slept for an average of 8 hours and 7 minutes, about 11 minutes less than women. However, about 35% of women reported trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, compared with only 25% of men.

One of the main factors behind this gap was an individual's job status. Overall, the more we work, the less we sleep. According to the GSS diary, people who worked full time got 24 minutes less sleep than those who had no regular employment.

The diary also showed that working full time was a key factor associated with the gap in sleep between the sexes. Data showed that men who worked full time slept 14 minutes less than women who worked full time. That is the equivalent of about 85 hours, or 3.5 fewer days of sleep a year.

However, for Canadians who worked part time or had no employment, there was no difference between the sexes in terms of sleep time.

Kids deprive parents of sleep

On the whole, married Canadians and those in common-law unions sleep less than others. Specifically, people living with a partner slept about 8 hours, 5 minutes a night. Single people (never married) slept 8 hours 29 minutes a night, or 24 minutes longer.

The GSS found that Canadians with no children in the household got, on average, 8 hours and 18 minutes of sleep. In households with children under the age of 15, parents slept less. And the more children they had, the less sleep they got.

Those with at least two children slept 25 minutes less, while parents with only one child slept 17 minutes less.

The gender gap closes as men and women spend more time taking care of young children. Specifically, when men devoted up to 90 minutes of child care, they slept less than their female counterparts. When both parents devoted more than 90 minutes caring for their children, there was no statistically significant difference between the sleep duration of either parent.

Dual-parent families with children under 15 slept 16 minutes less than those without children. This is not surprising since families with children generally have busier schedules that prolong the day and may shorten the time parents have available for sleep.

However, the sleep times of Canadians without a spouse or partner were the same, whether or not there were younger children in the household.

People with long commutes sleep less than others

The study showed conclusively that people with long commutes sleep less than others.

People with long commutes of an hour or more per day reported that their sleep lasted about 7 hours and 41 minutes. People with short commutes, 1 to 30 minutes, slept on average 22 minutes longer. Again, men tended to sleep less than women.

Time stress reduces the amount of sleep everyone gets. Men who are highly time crunched get 35 minutes less than those who report little time stress; similarly, women get 25 minutes less sleep. On the whole, men still sleep fewer minutes per night than women, regardless of their time stress level.

Working long hours means getting less sleep. On average, people who had worked for more than 9 hours on the day they kept the diary slept for only 7 hours and 32 minutes. This was 41 minutes fewer per night than people who had worked for less than 4 hours.

And it was almost an hour's less sleep (55 minutes) than that reported by people who did not work any paid hours at all.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4503.

The report "Who gets any sleep these days? Sleep patterns of Canadians" is now available in the April 2008 issue of Canadian Social Trends, no. 85 (11-008-XWE, free) from the Publications module of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (613-951-5979;, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.