Racial and ethnic minorities, especially African Americans, are more likely to sleep six or fewer hours each night and to suffer the adverse health outcomes of insufficient sleep, according to the 2015 Kelly Report on Health Disparities in America, released Friday by the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust.
Among the high-profile contributors to this year’s report is Michael Grandner, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Department of Psychiatry’s new Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson.
Dr. Grandner wrote the “Sleep and Health Disparities in the American Population” section of the report, available online at robinkelly.house.gov/cbchealth. The official Congressional analysis of the state of health disparities in the United States offers a blueprint for reversing negative health trends in communities of color.
“Sleep is an important pillar of health, and disturbed sleep is associated with weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, increased pain and fatigue, and many other conditions, including shorter lifespan,” Dr. Grandner said. “The fact that the burden of insufficient and/or poor quality sleep is disproportionately felt by racial/ethnic minorities and the socioeconomically disadvantaged should cause alarm. There are a number of research efforts aimed at better understanding the role of sleep and health, especially in these populations, but there is still much work to be done.”
Highlights from “Sleep and Health Disparities in the American Population,” which begins on page 126, include:
- Racial and ethnic minorities, especially African Americans, and those of low socioeconomic position are more likely to experience insufficient sleep and to be impacted by sleep apnea and are less likely to be effectively treated.
- Insufficient sleep is related to cardiovascular and metabolic disease, conditions that are more prevalent among racial/ethnic minorities.
- Insomnia is associated with significant functional deficits and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and psychiatric illness.
- Sleep apnea is associated with functional deficits, psychiatric problems and cardiovascular mortality.
- Socioeconomic factors may play a significant role in sleep disparities.
- Knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, priorities, environmental factors and stress caused by discrimination may also affect sleep.
- More rigorous studies of real-world, diverse samples are needed to understand how sleep plays a role in health disparities.
Dr. Grandner points out that sleep, like diet and exercise, is a key component of health. Unlike diet and exercise, though, sleep usually is more accessible to change.
“It is very hard to change someone’s diet, or to get them to exercise more, but the data show that changing sleep may be much easier to accomplish,” Dr. Grandner said. “And if changing sleep could lead to improved health trajectories, especially for those who are most vulnerable to poor health and poor sleep, we may be able to use sleep as a tool to make a dent in the health disparities that we see among minorities in the U.S. But there is still much research that needs to be done in order to answer all these questions.”
For more information about Dr. Grandner, please visit http://medicine.arizona.edu/node/23995/internationally-recognized-sleep-and-health-researcher-joins-ua-department-psychiatry. Dr. Grandner also holds a joint appointment as assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, part of the School of Mind, Brain and Behavior in the UA College of Science.
The Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust is the authority on African American and minority health disparities on Capitol Hill. The Braintrust is tasked with creating legislative and policy solutions to reduce health disparities and promote good health outcomes in multicultural communities.