Socioeconomic Status Predicts Objective and Subjective Sleep Quality in Aging Women

Studies have consistently shown that social position predicts the quality of night sleep. Specifically, those with low-status occupations are more likely to report difficulty falling and staying asleep, frequent early morning awakenings and increased daytime sleepiness compared to those in high-status occupations. This study tests the hypothesis that socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with sleep quality. It also examines the influences of health status and psychosocial characteristics on the association of SES and sleep.

Self–administered questionnaires were sent to 94 women who were 61 to 90 years of age. SES was determined by household income and years of education. The authors used the NightCap sleep system and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index to obtain objective and subjective assessments of sleep quality. The study found that higher household income significantly predicted increased sleep efficiency and reduced sleep disturbances even after adjusting for demographic factors, health status and psychosocial characteristics. Similarly, more years of education also were associated with increased sleep efficiency and reduced sleep disturbances, but this association was partially reduced after health status and psychosocial measures were included in the analyses. These results suggest that SES is linked to sleep quality and certain psychosocial characteristics such as depression and health status might partially explain the association. Given the links between sleep impairments and increased morbidity and mortality, more research is needed on the contribution of sleep pathology to social health inequalities.