“Sharing a bed is good for your health.” That was the title of a recent blog post in the Wall Street Journal. The longer article, also in the Journal, asked “Who sleeps better at night?” The tease offered an answer: “Men vs. women, couples vs. singles: New studies find benefits in sharing a bed.”
Was the answer accurate?
I never take media reports of social science research at face value. If I really want to know if “sharing a bed is good for your health” or anything else, I go to the original sources and read the actual journal articles. It is not enough just to ask other people – not even the people who authored the articles – what the studies showed.
In this set of posts, I’ll take you through my process of examining media claims about couples and singles. By the end, you should have a better sense of the actual answer to the question of whether “sharing a bed is good for your health.” Even more than that, you may also become a more astute media critic and a better evaluator of scientific claims.
I am going to assess the claims made in the Wall Street Journal based on the studies the reporter cites. If I were to write, say, a chapter in a book about the health implications of sharing a bed, then I would be going beyond media critique and making a broader statement. For that, I’d read all of the relevant research, not just the studies cited in a particular newspaper article.
Many readers are just browsers – they just skim headings. On a good day, maybe they will read another sentence of paragraph. So your start asking questions right from the start.
Go ahead, if you are interested, and generate some questions you should be asking when you read those headings and teases written to grab your attention and keep you reading. Specifically, what should you be wondering about when you read:
- “Sharing a bed is good for your health.”
- “Men vs. women, couples vs. singles: New studies find benefits in sharing a bed.”
There are many possible answers. In my next post, I’ll review some of them. Then later, I’ll tell you what I found when I read the original journal articles.
Go ahead and read the two articles in the Journal (here and here) if you want to delve more deeply. In so doing, you will learn a bit about the studies that are the bases for the claims, and you will also garner some big hints as to whether the studies are really up to the task of answering the bed-benefits question.
[Thanks to my older brother for the heads-up about these media reports.]
Feet in bed photo available from Shutterstock.