Black Americans get almost one hour less of sleep a night than white Americans, according to a recent study by Auburn University researchers. And this may account for disparities in health between the races.
The study will appear in an upcoming edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences.
Auburn University doctoral candidates David Curtis, associate professor Thomas Fuller-Rowell and Mona El-Sheikh, professor of human development and family studies, all worked on the study. Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison also took part.
Curtis, who is researching links between sleep and health, said he was surprised at the findings.
"I was expecting there to be a sleep disparity, but it surprised me how consistent it has been across the data sets," he said. "It's a substantial magnitude that's quite concerning."
Researchers for years have documented the health problems common to black Americans and the gap between their health and that of whites. According to the American Heart Association, the prevalence of high blood pressure in blacks is the highest in the world. Among non-Hispanic blacks age 20 and older, 63 percent of black men and 77 percent of black women are overweight or obese. In addition, blacks are more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
Curtis said the study looked at sleep patterns between 426 black and white adults in Wisconsin over seven nights. Using census data, researchers took into account basic demographics, level of education and economic status. They also looked at blood pressure, waist circumference and other physical factors.
On average, Curtis said, black Americans sleep 45 to 55 minutes less per night than white Americans. In addition, monitoring devices found that blacks experience a lower "sleep efficiency" - in other words, they spend just as much time in bed, but less time sleeping, or have a poorer quality of sleep.
Why? Curtis said sleep can be influenced by social context - people experiencing high stress or economic anxiety can find it harder to sleep. Sleep also affects mental health and basic cognition.
The differences in sleep documented by the study accounted for more than one-half of racial differences in cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk.
"Sleep is a malleable health behavior that is linked with characteristics of the social and physical environment and could be an effective target in national efforts to reduce racial health disparities," Fuller-Rowell said....Read more