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Study Finds Poor Sleep Leads to More Health Problems for African Americans

Update Date: Sep 09, 2013 03:59 PM EDT

Even though people have the same bodies as one another regardless of ethnicities, studies have repeatedly found that environment and genetics associated with race can greatly affect people's risks of developing different diseases. For example, studies have found that African Americans are at a greater risk of dying from breast cancer due to poor screening tests and more aggressive cancers. In a new study, researchers found that African Americans are also at a greater risk of developing health problems due to poor sleeping habits.

"With increasing numbers of blacks entering professional and management roles in numerous industries, it is important to investigate and address the social factors contributing to the short sleep disparities in blacks compared with whites in general, and particularly in professional settings," said lead author Chandra Jackson, Yerby postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH (Harvard School of Public Health).

In this study, the research team examined the data provided from the National Health Interview Survey. The data included around 137,000 American adults taken from 2004 to 2011. The survey, which was done by workers from the U.S. Census Bureau, asked participants about their lifestyles, health, career and socioeconomic statues. From the questionnaires, the researchers found that 30 percent of the interviewees fell under the category of "short sleepers," 31 percent could be considered "optimal sleepers," and 39 percent were "long sleepers." Short sleepers got less than seven hours per night, optimal sleeps had around seven hours per night and long sleepers slept over seven hours per night.

The researchers found that in general, African American professionals specifically were more likely to be classified in the short sleepers' group than their white counterparts. The researchers calculated that 37 percent of the black participants were short sleepers while only 28 percent of white participants slept under seven hour a night. When it came to jobs of all professions, which included both professional and managerial positions, the percentages of short sleepers were 42 percent for blacks respondents and 26 percent for white respondents. When the researchers looked at only support service jobs, the percentages were 37 percent and 26 percent for black and white interviewees respectively. For labor jobs, the percentages of short sleepers for black and white participants were 35 percent and 32 percent respectively.

The researchers had accounted for multiple variables, such as age, demographics, health behaviors, which included smoking and drinking, exercise level, medical conditions and socioeconomic status. The researchers stated that their findings are important because sleep is very important for health. If black people are generally sleeping less, the lack of sleep could affect their work performance and their physical health. The lack of sleep could also be caused by an increase in stress due to work, which also has adverse effect on health.

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