Black Americans Likely to Sleep Less After Police Shootings, Study Shows

Following police shootings that garnered national attention, researchers found an 11.4 percent increase in Black Americans getting less than six hours of sleep.

A new study revealed that Black Americans are more likely to have less sleep after police shootings which is a contributing factor in racial sleep disparities.

According to USA Today, two large government surveys of 2 million Black and White participants were conducted by sleep data experts from a national database of police killings between 2013 and 2019. During that period, 331 unarmed Black people were killed, according to Mapping Police Violence, on which the study was based.

The research, which was published on Monday (Feb. 5), found that “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.”

"Events like this are the type that exactly could have an impact on people's health," said Atheendar S. Venkataramani, an associate professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. "And sleep is one of those things that I think can change very exquisitely in response to circumstances like that."

The lack of sleep, the study showed, is the gateway to multiple health problems and Black Americans are affected in disproportionate numbers.

When a police killing took place in the state where participants in the study 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.”  Following police shootings that garnered national attention, researchers found an 11.4 percent increase.

New Study Says Black Americans Less Likely To Get A Good Night's Sleep

Although the study had limitations such as researchers could not determine if participants were aware of the killings and the possibility of bias. But the data could help with improving the study's design in the future, Venkataramani noted.

"It's always possible that the results are biased by some factor that we're not measuring that both correlated with incidents of a police killing and also people's reports of how they're sleeping," he said. "So we can't be sure, but we tried a lot to limit the bias."

The recent study follows a pattern of Black Americans and their sleep habits. According to a Yale University study from 2022, Black Americans have lower rates of sleep than Whites.  

Mercedes Carnethon, Ph.D., vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and an expert on racial disparities in cardiovascular disease, described the health disparities in people of color that can come from less sleep. 

"National data indicate that Black adults and other non-White adults have poorer sleep…  We want to be able to address disparities in sleep because we know that sleep is associated with some of the leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease,” she said

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night, but more than a third of adults throughout the county say they get less than that on average, according to a 2022 study published by the American Heart Association.

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