According to two new studies, blacks receive less quality sleep than whites.
The studies presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies found that whites get more and better rest over any other racial group. Blacks were found to sleep shorter and experience restless sleep.
One of the studies conducted in Chicago found that whites average approximately 7.4 hours of sleep per night while Hispanics and Asians received an average of 6.9 hours of sleep. The study found that blacks received an average of 6.8 hours of sleep per night. In regards to sleep quality, the study examined the ease in which participants fell asleep as well as how long their sleep went uninterrupted. Results showed that whites still faired higher than blacks.
Researchers even considered socioeconomic factors when comparing sleep quality among racial groups. In a 2009 study, researchers took education, income, and employment status into consideration and still found that black men slept 82 minutes less than a white woman, who surpassed all racial groups.
Many researchers imply that the lack of sleep and its quality can be tied to prevalent health issues in the black community such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes. They believe it is taking a toll on the community’s activity and performance.
“When people aren’t sleeping as well during the night, they aren’t as productive during the day, and they’re not as healthy,” said Dr. Mercedes R. Carnethon, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.”
Even through extensive research, study authors are finding it difficult to determine if sleep deprivation and its quality is linked to biological differences or the environment.
“We’re not at a point where we can say for certain is it nature versus nurture, is it race or is it socioeconomics,” said Dr. Michael A. Grandner, a research associate with the Center for Sleep and Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania. “There is a unique factor of race we’re still trying to understand.”
Researchers have agreed that an overall contributor can be stress.
“We had no way to control for stress, and there are social stresses an African-American man might feel that a white man with the same income and education level wouldn’t,” said Dr. Kristen Knutson, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and an author of the study.
“People who feel they have control over their lives were able to feel secure at night, go to sleep, sleep well, and wake up well in the morning and do it all over again,” said Dr. Lauren Hale, associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University on Long Island, referring to her 2009 study. “That’s part of the cycle not just for blacks and minorities, but other disadvantaged populations.”
The studies also found unique trends among racial and gender groups. Hispanic men who were divorced or widowed were found to experience difficulty sleeping as well as Asian men who feared never being married. A lack of education was found to cause sleep problems for Asian women in comparison to white women.
Men of all racial groups experienced quality sleep when they were in a relationship in comparison to single men, regardless of the relationship’s quality. Women however received better rest when they were in a quality relationship.
“There’s an effect of socioeconomics,” said Dr. Grandner, a lead author of the study. “But it’s not really the economic. It’s more about the socio.”
In regards to children, research conducted by Dr. Hale for the National Institutes of Health in 2010 discovered that Hispanics and blacks were less likely to have habitual bedtimes in comparison to white children. White children were also found to have language-based bedtime routines such as story-telling or reading, which have been connected to having cognitive and behavioral advantages.
“If routines are absent, especially these language-based routines, then children may be missing out on opportunities to develop and sleep optimally,” Hale said.