JGI/Tom Grill

There Are Racial Disparities in How Much Sleep People Get

"The persistent sleep disparities for Black people may be contributing to the persistent average worse health status among Black people."

When it comes to how many hours people sleep each day, a new study finds increasingly persistent racial and ethnic disparities.

Using data collected by the National Health Interview Survey from 2004 to 2018, researchers found that the proportion of people who reported sleeping fewer than 7 hours per day increased significantly over the 15-year period, and it was significantly higher among Black people.

“As an indicator of sleep health, adequate sleep duration is essential for achieving and maintaining a healthy life,” says lead author César Caraballo-Cordovez, postdoctoral associate at the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE) at Yale University.

“The current expert consensus is that most adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period; and we found that Black people, on average, were persistently less likely to report sleeping such recommended duration.

“Specifically, we found that over the 15 years we analyzed, Black people had the highest prevalence of both short sleep duration [fewer than 7 hours] and long sleep duration [more than 9 hours].”

The researchers reported that in 2018, the percentage of people reporting short sleep duration was 11 points higher among Black people when compared with white people. The same disparity was 7.5 points in 2004. Researchers investigated how these findings varied by sex and household income and found that the disparities were the highest for Black women and Black people with middle or high income.

The team also found differences between racial and ethnic groups when sleep duration was analyzed by age. For instance, they found that the disparities were the highest for young and middle-aged Black adults, slightly narrowing among the elderly.

“This suggests that factors related to working or employment conditions are disproportionally preventing Black individuals from having adequate sleep,” says Caraballo-Cordovez.

Sleep is closely related to overall physical and mental health, says senior author Harlan M. Krumholz, professor of medicine and director of CORE.

“Both short sleep and long sleep duration are associated with higher risk of suffering adverse medical events, including higher risk of death,” he says.

“Thus, the persistent sleep disparities for Black people may be contributing to the persistent average worse health status among Black people. There should be renewed efforts to eliminate the socioeconomic and health conditions that prevent minoritized racial and ethnic individuals from achieving adequate sleep—including racism.”

The study appears in JAMA Network Open. Additional coauthors are from the Houston Methodist Research Institute, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the National Institutes of Health, and Yale.

Source: Yale University