Black Professionals More Likely to Skimp on Sleep

Kim Painter, USA Today, September 10, 2013

Black adults are more likely than whites to skimp on sleep, and the sleep gap is especially wide for black professionals, a new study shows.

The study from Harvard School of Public Health focused on so-called “short sleepers”—adults who routinely get less than seven hours of sleep each night. The study found they make up 29% of the population. But they were more common among blacks (37%) than whites (28%) in the nationally representative survey of 136,815 men and women. The results were published online Monday in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Researchers aren’t sure why the gap exists but they are concerned because sleeping less than seven hours a night is linked with a heightened risk of early death and with chronic health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

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Even after accounting for age, socioeconomic status and habits such as drinking and smoking, they found differences between blacks and whites who had similar jobs. The short sleepers included:

  • 42% of black and 26% of white professionals and managers.
  • 37% of black and 26% of white support service workers.
  • 35% of black and 32% of white laborers.

The gap was not found among food and retail workers. The overall racial gap was similar in men and women.

In general, the study suggests that moving up the professional ladder in any occupation results in sleep losses for blacks but gains for whites, Jackson says.

One possible explanation: Some black professionals adopt an “extraordinarily strong work ethic as a way to cope with negative stereotypes” and discrimination at work, she says. {snip}

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