Viewing sleep as unmanly actually aligns with a larger phenomenon in which men tend to avoid engaging with their own health, according to the study’s researchers Nathan Warren, M.S., M.A., and Troy Campbell, Ph.D. That’s because masculinity is traditionally associated with strength, stoicism, and the avoidance of anything associated with femininity—such as caretaking and health.
“Men often choose to ‘tough it out’ by avoiding feminine associations with health care,” Warren and Campbell write. “Despite the severe consequences for men’s health, demonstrating stoic toughness allows men to display stereotypically masculine and agentic traits of strength, independence, autonomy, and resilience.”
In other words, unhealthy behaviors have become associated with masculinity. They point to previous research by Will Courtenay, Ph.D., who notes how a man may brag that “I haven’t been to a doctor in years” as a way to show how tough and masculine they are.
“Sleeping less may serve as a symbolic representation of gender,” Warren and Campbell write. “Men who violate masculinity norms are often accused of ‘not being man enough’ or of not being ‘real men,’ which suggests that males who violate gendered sleep stereotypes may face negative social judgments.”