Posted on February 11, 2024

Black People More Likely to Sleep Less After Some Police Killings, Study Says

N'dea Yancey-Bragg and Marc Ramirez, USA Today, February 7, 2024

Black Americans are less likely to get quality sleep, and new research suggests police killings of unarmed Black people could be contributing to these racial sleep disparities.

Researchers analyzed sleep data from two large government surveys and a national database of police killings. The study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, found Black people were more likely than white people to report getting short or very short sleep in the months after police killed an unarmed Black person, according to co-author Atheendar S. Venkataramani, an associate professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of medicine.

“Events like this are the type that exactly could have impact on people’s health,” said Venkataramani. “And sleep is one of those things that I think can change very exquisitely in response to circumstances like that.”


Researchers looked at the responses of more than 2 million Black and white people to questions about how much they slept. Responses were taken from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance surveys and the American Time Use surveys given between 2013 and 2019. During that period, police killed 331 unarmed Black people, according to Mapping Police Violence, the database used by the researchers. The database relies primarily on news reports as well as data from state and local government agencies.

After a police killing occurred in the state where respondents lived, there was a 6.5% increase of very short sleep, meaning less than 6 hours, compared to the average among Black people prior to the killing, according to the study. After a police killing that gained national attention, such as the killing of Eric Garner in New York, there was an 11.4% increase.

Venkataramani acknowledged the data had limitations. The study said researchers could not determine if respondents were aware of the killings, for example, and Venkataramani said getting data on news coverage and community discussions of each individual killing could improve the study’s design.

{snip} The study found no adverse affects on sleep duration for white people after killings of unarmed Black or white people and no significant changes for Black Americans after killings of armed Black people, he said.