Is it possible that policy affects our sleep?
Dr. Lihi Lahat
One of the most important things for well-being is sleep. Not having enough sleep has repercussions on health, memory, abilities, and mood. Health organizations, such as the United States National Sleep Foundation and the CDC, suggest a range between seven and nine hours of sleep is appropriate for adults, and while it may change by age group and by country, we had surprising findings for Israelis. In a survey we conducted, adult Israelis reported a low number of sleep hours (mean 6.6) and asked for an average of one hour more to sleep, more than any other uses of time. This was a surprising finding: we assumed Israelis, as a very friendly and family-oriented society, would ask for more leisure time and more time to spend with family. The findings showed long hours of care and paid work dramatically affected the level of sleep. We argue these findings can be better understood if we take into account not just social norms, but also official policies, such as work hours or care assistance. In fact, we suggest policies may hinder sleep, a side effect that policymakers might not consider.
A study recently published in Policy Studies (with Professor Itai Sened) presents our findings on sleep hours and desired sleep hours and reflects on the findings in light of the Israeli policy context. The Israeli case is interesting - Israelis have a high number of children, the highest in the OECD, with 3.1 children per woman, and policies that encourage the inclusion of different populations in the workforce. However, the investment in care services for children and older populations is underdeveloped. The combination of a high number of children with a high number of work hours and underdeveloped care services leads to a high burden, especially for parents of small children. In Israel (and likely elsewhere), the dual care-work burden affects sleep and well-being.
Our work calls for policymakers to be more aware of the cumulative side effects of policies. For example, school hours, quality of care services, and regulations on work hours should be taken into consideration together, not as separate policies. A more holistic policy perspective might lead to better sleep and well-being not just in the Israeli case but in other countries with a dual work-care burden.
To cite this article: Lihi Lahat & Itai Sened (2022): The politics and policies of sleep? Empirical findings and the policy context. Policy Studies. DOI:10.1080/01442872.2022.2057460
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/01442872.2022.2057460
Lihi Lahat Ph.D. is a senior lecturer in the Department of Administration & Public Policy at Sapir Academic College and an Affiliate Associate Professor, Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies, Concordia University, Montreal. Her papers have been published in Policy Sciences, Social Policy & Administration, International Review of Administrative Sciences, Journal of Management and Governance, Review of Public Personnel Administration, and Poverty & Public Policy.