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Narratives of the Night: the Use of Audio Diaries in Researching Sleep

Jenny Hislop, Sara Arber, Robert Meadows and Susan Venn
Sociological Research Online 10 (4) hislop

Abstract: This article draws on data from two major empirical studies of sleep to examine the use of audio diaries as an approach to researching sleep. Sleep has only recently emerged as a topic of interest to the sociologist, providing a valuable resource through which to examine the roles and relationships and gender inequalities which underpin everyday life. Yet accessing individual experiences of sleep is problematic. Considered a non-conscious activity, sleep takes place in most cases at night within the private domain of the home and is thus generally inaccessible to the social researcher and outside the conscious reality of the sleeper. In exploring the social aspects of sleep, we rely primarily on respondents' interpretations of the sleep period given retrospectively in focus groups and in-depth interviews, distanced from the temporal, spatial and relational dimensions of the sleep event. This article also focuses on the use of audio diaries as a method designed to help bridge the gap between events in real time and retrospective accounts. We examine the narrative structure of audio diaries, discuss the principles and practice of using audio diaries in sleep research, illustrate the contribution of audio diary narratives to an understanding of the social context of sleep, and assess the use of audio diaries in social research. We conclude that, used in conjunction with other methods, audio diaries are an effective method of data collection, particularly for understanding experiences of intimate aspects of everyday life.

Gender Roles and Women's Sleep in Mid and Later Life: a Quantitative Approach

Sara Arber, Jenny Hislop, Marcos Bote and Robert Meadows
Sociological Research Online 12 (5) 3

Abstract: Women in mid and later life report particularly poor quality sleep. This article suggests a sociologically-informed quantitative approach to teasing out the impact of women's roles and relationships on their sleep, while also taking into account women's socio-economic characteristics and health status. This was accomplished through analysis of the UK Women's Sleep Survey 2003, based on self-completion questionnaires from a national sample of 1445 women aged over 40. The article assesses the ways in which three central aspects of women's gender roles: the night-time behaviours of their partners, night-time behaviours of their children, and night-time worries – impact on women's sleep, while also considering how disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances and poor health may compromise women's sleep. Using bivariate analysis followed by hierarchical multiple regression models, we examine the relative importance of different aspects of women's gender roles. The key factors implicated in the poor sleep quality of midlife and older women are their partner's snoring, night-time worries and concerns, poor health status (especially experiencing pain at night), disadvantaged socio-economic status (especially having lower educational qualifications) and for women with children, their children coming home late at night.

Editors' Introduction: Gender, Sleep and the Life Course

Sara Arber, Jenny Hislop and Simon Williams
Sociological Research Online 12 (5) 19

Abstract: [No abstract]