“The Black-White Sleep Gap”

“Gen­er­ally, people are thought to spend 20 per­cent of their night in slow-wave sleep, and the study’s white par­ti­cipants hit this mark. Black par­ti­cipants, however, spent only about 15 per­cent of the night in slow-wave sleep.
The study was just one data point in a mount­ing pile of evid­ence that black Amer­ic­ans aren’t sleep­ing as well as whites…
“The race gap is de­creased if you take in­to ac­count some in­dic­at­or of eco­nom­ics,” says Laud­er­dale, “but it’s not elim­in­ated in the data that I have looked at.”…
ON THE QUES­TION of how to ex­plain the black-white sleep gap it­self, re­search­ers have a num­ber of re­lated the­or­ies. (There is a con­sensus that in­nate bio­lo­gic­al dif­fer­ences between blacks and whites are not a factor.) The stress caused by dis­crim­in­a­tion is one strong pos­sib­il­ity…
She ar­gues that sleep is a re­flec­tion of a per­son’s agency. The more con­trol you have over your life — the more free­dom you have fin­an­cially, the more free­dom you have to live where you choose, the more con­trol you have over what you eat and when you eat it, the more you have the lux­ury of pos­sess­ing the time and equip­ment to ex­er­cise — the more likely you are able to cre­ate an en­vir­on­ment that fosters good sleep. “[S]kep­tics can­not ar­gue that people with poor sleep habits simply ‘choose’ to sleep poorly,” Hale and a co-au­thor wrote in 2010. “Sleep should be viewed as a con­sequence of something oth­er than choice.”…
at every level of gov­ern­ment, there are policy de­cisions — wheth­er on neigh­bor­hood noise levels or pub­lic safety or the place­ment of pub­lic hous­ing — that provide good op­por­tun­it­ies to con­sider, and per­haps im­prove, how people sleep.”

I want to post this is in several of my publications, but it’s most relevant here. (If you follow my science or mental health posts, you hopefully already know about circadian rhythm and health)

I am involved in research about the molecular biology of circadian rhtyhm and sleep, and I appreciate this other perspective too — there is something very cognitive about sleep, about designing and scheduling your day and moving towards sleep and being capable of turning off and trusting your environment.

This article was a really motivating thing for me to read. I hope that, soon, our society recognized the core health implications of sleep and circadian rhythm and that we start structuring around enabling healthier lives.

Related: A post I wrote about the importance of chronotype (i.e. being a morning person or an evening person), which links to several other relevant things.

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