Race, Ethnicity Impacts Sleep Patterns
A scientific research at renowned Northwestern University revealed that Caucasians sleep longer than all other American ethnic groups. Not surprisingly, blacks had the lowest sleep quality, while Asians had the highest reports of daytime sleepiness, reports the New York Times and Huffington Post.
The findings caused quite a bit of stir in the medical community when an article published in the Times stated that the length and quality of a person’s sleep is linked to his or her race. The article begins with black Brooklynite Moleendo Stewart who traces his trouble sleeping to his Miami childhood spent listening to gunshots all night. The study pinpoints possible factors that could contribute to blacks’ lower rates of continuous, restful sleep, including: decreased likelihood of a set bedtime schedule during childhood; social and economic stressors; and racial inequality.
Sleep studies with race and ethnicity as determinants are relatively new. Here are a couple of interesting findings:
The latest evidence that race and ethnicity can affect sleep came in June at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, held in Boston. In one of two studies on the topic presented there, white participants from the Chicago area were found to get an average of 7.4 hours of sleep per night; Hispanics and Asians averaged 6.9 hours and blacks 6.8 hours. Sleep quality — defined as ease in falling asleep and length of uninterrupted sleep — was also higher for whites than for blacks.
At least one study suggests that socioeconomic factors affecting sleep are highly specific to race and gender. For example, being divorced or widowed was particularly detrimental to the sleep of Hispanic men, while never being married was more likely to take a toll on the sleep of Asian men. Asian women lacking in education were more likely to report sleep problems than similarly educated white women. And men of all races who were in relationships slept better than single men, regardless of relationship quality; for women, the quality of the relationship was more likely to affect sleep.
Dr. Mercedes Canethon told the Huffington Post that on-going research is going to explore the differences to come up with precise reasons for the disparity and develop solutions.
“When we’re faced with speculating why we see these race differences in sleep duration, we tend to think it has more to do with the social and cultural factors related to race than physiologic factors,” Carnethon said.