A National Journal report explores the racial inequality in sleep and the studies that show blacks are not sleeping as well as whites.

The study was just one data point in a mount­ing pile of evid­ence that black Amer­ic­ans aren’t sleep­ing as well as whites. This past June, the journ­al Sleep pub­lished a study on the sleep qual­ity of black, white, Chinese, and His­pan­ic adults in six cit­ies across the United States. The par­ti­cipants were pooled from the Multi-Eth­nic Study of Ath­er­o­scler­o­sis (MESA), a co­hort of more than 6,000 people who, for the last 15 years, have been in­ter­mit­tently pricked, prod­ded, and as­sessed to dis­cov­er how geo­graphy and race in­flu­ence health over time. (More than 950 pa­pers have been pub­lished on this co­hort. It’s from them that re­search­ers have found evid­ence that the farther people live from a wealth­i­er area, the more likely they are to de­vel­op in­sulin res­ist­ance—or that blacks ap­pear to have high­er levels of the sub­stances that cause blood to clot.)

For a week, par­ti­cipants in the MESA study wore acti­graphy bands, Fit­bit-like brace­lets that can es­tim­ate the amount of time a per­son is asleep. In a sep­ar­ate test, they un­der­went poly­so­m­no­graphy. The res­ults? “The in­suf­fi­cient amount of sleep, the short sleep dur­a­tion of the Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans really stood out,” says Susan Red­line, a Har­vard pro­fess­or of sleep medi­cine and one of the study’s co-au­thors. “It really em­phas­ized that Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, as a group, are get­ting the least amount of sleep com­pared, at least, to the three oth­er groups.” Whites in the study slept an av­er­age of 6.85 hours; blacks slept an av­er­age of 6.05 hours.

Com­pared with white par­ti­cipants in the study, black par­ti­cipants—most epi­demi­olo­gists prefer “black” to Afric­an-Amer­ic­an; it en­com­passes more people—were five times more likely to get short sleep, defined as less than six hours a night. (His­pan­ic par­ti­cipants were 1.8 times more likely to get short sleep; Chinese par­ti­cipants were 2.3 times more likely.) Blacks were also more likely to re­port feel­ing sleepy in the day­time, and they woke up more of­ten in the middle of the night. “Not­ably,” the study reads, “these as­so­ci­ations re­mained evid­ent after ad­just­ment for sex, age, study site, and [body mass in­dex].”

 Read the full story at www.nationaljournal.com