How Well You Sleep May Hinge on Race

Douglas Quenqua, New York Times, August 20, 2012


The idea that race or ethnicity might help determine how well people sleep is relatively new among sleep researchers. But in the few short years that epidemiologists, demographers and psychologists have been studying the link, they have repeatedly come to the same conclusion: In the United States, at least, sleep is not colorblind.

Non-Hispanic whites get more and better-quality sleep than people of other races, studies repeatedly show. Blacks are the most likely to get shorter, more restless sleep.


“We’re not at a point where we can say for certain is it nature versus nurture, is it race or is it socioeconomics,” said Dr. Michael A. Grandner, a research associate with the Center for Sleep and Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania. {snip}


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.

While those findings are consistent with earlier studies, this one, led by Dr. Carnethon, adjusted for risk factors like cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea and obesity. {snip}


The idea that differences in work and living conditions can explain the racial sleep disparities is a popular one among sleep experts. But studies that have accounted for those factors suggest a more complex reality.

One such study from 2005—also taking place in Chicago—measured sleep among 669 participants while adjusting for education, income and employment status. In the end, black men on average still slept 82 minutes less per night than white women, who were found to sleep the best of anyone in the study.


Mr. Stewart, the Brooklyn resident, said he did see discrimination as playing a role in his sleep problems.

“As a black person in America, even if you succeed in terms of education, you still have to deal with the inherent inequality of society,” said Mr. Stewart, an administrator for a program that exposes students in racial minorities to careers in science and math. “I don’t blame it on the majority—that’s just simplistic. But in general it’s not a fair thing, and you stress because of that.”


It may also be the culture. Black and Hispanic children in America are far less likely to have regularly enforced bedtimes than white children, according to a 2010 study conducted by Dr. Hale for the National Institutes of Health. White children were also more likely to have “language-based” bedtime routines—those that involve reading or storytelling—both of which are associated with a wide range of cognitive and behavioral advantages.


And some researchers aren’t ready to discount biology. In a forthcoming study, Dr. Grandner found that short sleepers are more likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein, but how much depended on race. C-reactive protein is produced by the body when inflammation is present and has previously been implicated in sleep problems.



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  • some scientists claim that when white people are immersed in sensory deprivation tanks for long periods, their circadian rhythm has a frequency of 24 hours 40 minutes, which corresponds not to the rotational period of the Earth, but of Mars! This is not the case with non-white races who are in tune with the Earth’s rotation.

  • WmarkW

    Well, if the studies were done in Chicago, of course it’s hard to sleep with the sound of gunfire constantly reverberating through your neighborhood.

    • Major

      Dang…you beat me to it. Maybe they can make a deal with their own hoodlum “kids” to lay off the Mac10’s after midnight cause the neighbors want to listen to Rap?

  • Blacks are the most likely to get shorter, more restless sleep.

    Or maybe it’s just the
    Pop! Pop! Pop!   Whirr-Wir-Wir-Wir!  
    Pop! Pop! Pop!    Whirr-Wir-Wir-Wir!
    all night where they live?

    • RisingReich

       Ah – here’s the winner!  Ding ding ding!

  • “In the end, black men on average still slept 82 minutes less per night
    than white women, who were found to sleep the best of anyone in the

    Our White goddesses refer to this as “beauty sleep.”  I guess it works, I mean compare white women to non white women.

    • A lot of white women love the Ambien.

      • Major

        Dat be a boys name or a gurls?

      • Sherman_McCoy

        Mmmm.  Pharmaceuticals!

  • Church_of_Jed

    Under the circumstances, any Whitey who sleeps well at night is a traitor to White privilege.

  • potato78

    Because they like to have more sex than Whites and more crimes than Whites during night,
    and less IQ than Whites.

  • IKantunderstand

    All research in this country is a foregone conclusion: Racism causes bed wetting, flatulence, obesity, poor health, ear wax, fallen arches, ugliness, bad hair, bad breath, rudeness, aggressiveness, lack of achievement, lack of social skills, and lack of intelligence. There, now you know, and absolutely NO reason to spend one more penny of taxpayer money on any more research projects studying racial differences. Can we go to Mars now?

  • Soon, sleeping while White will be recognized as “White privilege” and be dealt with accordingly.

    • Biff_Maliboo

       I can see it now.

      Searchlights and klaxons will be installed in less-diverse areas.

  • Chimp Master Rules

    What’s keeping blacks awake is the realization that Obama is going to lose, America is broke and the gibbsme is about to run out. 

  • I can barely sleep and every bit of my sleepless nights is all due to non-whites and what they’ve done to my Country.  Any Lawyers out there?  I need to sue for discrimination and racism.

    • You know Stephanie, your cause of action would be summarily dismissed on the grounds of “White privilege,” and the counter claim filed against you would be granted under the newly enacted federal, gibs me dat clause!

    • Sue the $PLC for something ridiculous like they have done for years. Force them to devote time and money to your case. (I am not speaking to you directly) They need broken financially. And it will be tough because all of their money is out of the country.


      But if they want to continue to exist they have to keep paying lawyers.

      • You know better than I do that I, no one who believes a tenth of what I do would ever be allowed to sue.  I mean, no one would ever take the case.

        Why are they hiding money?  Because they can.  C’mon R, you know what I know ‘cept I didn’t know about the 501(C) hidden money so Thank You for that.

  • Sherman_McCoy

    Might I offer that you replace the term “the moon is made of green cheese” with “that they read a book”?

    They might buy the green cheese comment.

  • KenelmDigby

    With so many of them out of work, why do they have need of a deep, refereshing sleep at the end of a a long day’s work?