OP-ED: Sleep Deprivation for African Americans Linked to Racism, Study Shows

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By Yael Levin, UCLA BRITE Center

 

Studies show that racial and ethnic minorities in the United States often experience more sleep problems compared to whites, which poses a risk especially for individuals over the age of 65.

 

 

Sleep deprivation can sometimes result in negative health consequences, according to a study at New England Research Institutes. Insulin and stress hormone levels rise when a person doesn’t get enough sleep, placing them at risk for diabetes and hypertension.

 

It’s no accident that racial minorities, like African Americans or Latinos, are more at risk for heart disease and stroke. These sleep problems leave them more likely to have health issues associated with heart disease and stroke.

 

So, why are Blacks and Latinos more likely to have sleep problems?

 

There are several explanations, but one theory is that chronic stress and accumulated trauma from racial discrimination can make it difficult to get the appropriate sleep.

 

According to Dr. Vickie M. Mays, director of the UCLA BRITE Center – Bridging Research Innovation, Training and Education for Minority Health Disparities Solutions – it can be hard for African Americans to sleep soundly when they have been treated unfairly.

 

To better understand this issue, Dr. Mays is currently conducting a study to identify the related health effects of the discrimination and prejudice that African American men face in their daily lives.

 

These negative experiences are enough to make a person toss and turn at night, playing the event over repeatedly in their mind and what they could or should have done.

 

Dr. Mays is looking to interview African American men, 65 and older, to share their stories for the study. Interviews are conducted over the phone. Participants can remain anonymous and will receive a $10 gift card.

 

If you or someone you know is an African American man and 65 years old with a story to share, call (707) 928-4041.

 

Yael Levin is a Research Assistant at the UCLA BRITE Center.

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