African Americans who face discrimination are more likely to suffer from sleep-related problems, one study shows.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston conducted a survey among African American adults and found that those with experiences of discrimination suffered from poor sleep. This finding was brought to light as the researchers were originally conducting a long-term study of different heart disease risk factors in minorities.
The study was conducted twice, first between 2000 and 2004, and again between 2008 and 2012. Researchers doled out the Modified Williams Everyday Discrimination Scale, which is a questionnaire that discusses discrimination during everyday activities. One of the most defining question from the survey was “How often on a day-to-day basis do you have the following experiences: being treated with less courtesy, being treated with less respect, and do people act as if you are dishonest?”
Considering that others typically decide on a person’s trustworthiness in a tenth of a second, this question was able to give researchers a specific focus for the discrimination part of their survey.
In addition to giving their answers to how often they experienced discrimination, participants reported their sleep duration and sleep quality on a scale of one to five, five being excellent.
The survey participants were varied, and on average they were 55 years old, two-thirds were women, and a staggering 55% reported sleeping six hours or less per night. This number is well below the standard recommendation of seven to nine hours per night.
In the beginning of the survey, discrimination and sleep patterns were immediately linked, and this pattern remained the same over all eight years the survey was given. Those who had discrimination in their daily lives were a staggering 43% less likely to get a good night’s rest, and in total, women who suffered from severe levels of discrimination slept 22 minutes less than those who reported less or no experiences of discrimination.
“Research has shown that discrimination is strongly related to adverse health outcomes among African Americans,” Dr. Dayna A. Johnson, the lead researcher on the study, explained to Reuters. “Based on our findings, it is likely that the influence of stress on sleep is partially attributable to experiences with discrimination. African Americans are continually exposed to experiences of discrimination firsthand, through the vicarious experiences of friends and family, or through the media.”
Not only does the lack of sleep negatively affect the patient’s health, but the researchers are explaining that this study is critical to pointing out that sleep deprivation and African Americans are consistently linked as well. The hope is for doctors to take this study to heart and to focus on ways they can help fix this problem before it gets worse.
In light of presenting her findings at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society in Boston, Johnson and her team have announced they will continue their study in coming years.