Sleep Equity

Sleep Equity

 by Bronwyn Lea


I don’t feel particularly strongly about the division of labor in our home. As it turns out, he goes to work and makes computers do his every bidding, while I do all the shopping, bill paying, cleaning, correspondence, laundry, as well as most of the cooking and kid-wrangling. However, I get to be at home with our kids all day. Not a bad trade.

But while I might not feel the modern urge to demand household-chore-equity, I find that I am strangely emotional about sleep equity. By that I mean, for some reason I deeply believe that… Sleep_equity5

…my husband and I should get similar amounts of sleep.

If we went to bed at the same time, then I feel he should get up at the same time as me (i.e. when the baby wakes – we’re all awake). If he worked for 3 hours after my bed time, I feel as if I ought to let him sleep in for about 3 hours. If he sleeps for four, I get annoyed. If he stayed up playing games, no sleep credits for that either. If we’re both home and the kids are awake and he wants to take a nap, I get really snitty about the unfairness of it all. Sulking can only be avoided by promising me some nap time tomorrow.

If the sleep scales get out of balance, I get jealous. This is true even if I wasn’t tired and he just had more opportunity to sleep than I did, I still get annoyed that he got to nap. I am the lighter sleeper of us two, which means that if anyone is awake in the house, I’m generally awake too. This means that the sleep credit balance is seldom in my favour. Which means the grouch in me is awakened too.

I have no idea where these feelings come from: this presumption that I have a right to exactly the same amount of rest time as my husband. They are strong and visceral – and like many things in marriage, I didn’t know I felt so strongly about it until I actually got there. (In pre-marital prep you think you’re so flexible about so many things, until you discover months down the line that you’re completely angry or flustered because the dishes don’t get attended to immediately after dinner… and you never knew you felt strongly about it until someone didn’t want to touch the dishes until the following day…)

As it turns out, I feel strongly about sleep equity. I am trying to work on it though. It is, after all, just another way of “keeping score” in a relationship… which is always a calculation in favor of unhappiness.

If I got 6 hours of sleep and he got 8, is it REALLY worth another 4 hours of sulking on my part to ‘punish’ my dear husband for his better quality rest? Of course not. This selfish part of me needs some taming yet.

My kids are asleep right now. During this quiet hour I might give this some more thought. But then again, I might take a nap.



Bronwbronwyn lea umbrellayn Lea is a South African born writer-mama, raising 3 littles in Northern California. She
writes about the holy and hilarious in the life of faith and parenting, and hosts an advice column on her blog. You can visit her online at, and find more of her words on Facebook and Pinterest



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3 comments on “Sleep Equity

  1. Jenny says:

    I hear you, girlfriend! I think I need 8 hrs of sleep a night and my husband only needs 6. We had to seriously give each other grace when we had littles and let the other nap whenever they needed it. We also took turns sleeping in on the weekends, we would alternate Saturdays 🙂 Then sometimes Grandma would stay over and wake up early with the kids for us so we could both sleep in.

  2. Mel P. says:

    Yay I’m not the only one that thinks this way! Thank you!

  3. Paula says:

    I hear you! My husband travels out of town all week and I am essentially a single mom throughout the week until the weekend. So, on the weekends I would just like to sleep in a little since I have to get up a 6:30a during the week to get kids ready for school. Do I ever get to sleep in? No! I have to get up with the kids because my husband, who doesn’t have the responsibility of taking care of anyone but his manchild self during the week, sleeps in every weekend. Do I want to smother him with a pillow? Oh, yes! But I refrain and get my revenge other ways, like hours long naps during the day. I WILL get my sleep!

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