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How Sleep Patterns and Workplace Gender Equality Are Connected

Everyone knows that there’s a big difference between the health needs of men and the health needs of women, but could health discrepancies be substantial enough today to affect gender equality in the workplace?

Sleep deprivation is more common in the U.S. than most people think, and insomnia is one of the leading causes of this health concern. Although an estimated 50 million to 70 million adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic sleep disorders, women make up a surprising majority of this group. According to CNN, women are more likely to suffer from insomnia for a few different reasons; biology actually plays a role, but cultural trends come into play, too.

Hormone fluctuations are often a major cause of insomnia, so it goes without saying that pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause are connected with sleep-related problems. Although many women find that they’re more exhausted than usual when their hormones are fluctuating at high levels, the physical discomfort alone is enough to make it difficult to sleep through the night. The psychological aspect of worrying about children often keeps parents awake at night, and those suffering mental illnesses (like depression or anxiety) may find it difficult, if not impossible, to get a full night of sleep.

For working women, especially mothers, the importance of maintaining their own health often get shifted to the backburner.

Even as they continue to fight for equality in the workplace, including promotion to leadership positions, women often state that it’s difficult to find jobs where such opportunities are conducive to maintaining a work-life balance. In order to keep up with their male peers, female leaders all too often find themselves sacrificing more than they’d like.

Some of the most progressive companies, like Google and Facebook (where company leadership teams are 78% male and 77% male, respectively), have promoted more women and made changes to their work-life policies, like parental leave. Although some women cut their losses and choose a career over motherhood, or vice versa, plenty of others say that they’re determined to master that cultural phenomenon of “doing it all.”

Despite their determination, sleep may be the one thing that these busy women are not doing enough of.

And when long-term sleep deprivation kicks in, productivity in the workplace necessarily suffers. Concentration, memory, and decision-making abilities all suffer when an individual isn’t getting enough sleep at night. Is it possible that sleep deprivation affects more female employees than male employees, thus leading to fewer promotions and leadership opportunities?

What do you think?

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