Study: Police violence reduces sleep duration for Black Americans

A recent study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine has found that Black Americans are more likely to experience shorter nights of sleep compared to white Americans. This study comes in the wake of several instances of police officers killing unarmed Black people. The study's findings indicate that these instances of racial violence contribute to disparities in sleep duration between Black and white Americans.

The researchers analysed data from over 180,000 Black Americans and nearly 1.8 million white Americans, looking at national surveys that collected information on sleep duration. The team found that 46% of Black respondents and 33% of white respondents reported getting fewer than seven hours of sleep, which is considered short. Additionally, 18% of Black respondents and 10% of white respondents reported getting very short amounts of sleep, less than six hours.

The researchers also examined the impact of high-profile cases of police killing unarmed Black people on a national level. They found that these incidents significantly affected Black Americans, with the probability of Black Americans experiencing short sleep increasing by 4.6% and very short sleep increasing by 11.4%. There were no significant changes in sleep reported by white Americans.

These findings highlight the role of structural racism in shaping racial disparities in sleep health outcomes. The implications of not getting enough sleep are far-reaching, with links to several negative health outcomes including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Understanding the dynamic between police violence and sleep deprivation is crucial, says Giselle Corbie, Raegan W. Durant, and Mitchell H. Katz, editors of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Christiana Awosan, the program director for marriage and family therapy at Iona University, emphasises the need for society to acknowledge how racial trauma impacts the well-being of Black people and other marginalised communities. This study is a step towards documenting the health impacts of police violence on Black Americans, which is essential to begin to reduce these harms.

There are limitations to the study, however. As mentioned by Karen Lincoln, a sociologist at the University of California, Irvine, it would be helpful to explore other measures of sleep quality linked to stress, such as sleep variability or sleep onset. Nonetheless, this study calls attention to the profound impact of racial violence on the well-being of Black Americans.

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