Sleep patterns contribute to racial differences in disease risk

August 18, 2017 by Anna Williams, Northwestern University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Poor sleep patterns could explain, in part, the differences in the risk of cardiometabolic disease between African-Americans and European-Americans, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, was a co-author of the study.

African-Americans tend to suffer higher rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases—such as stroke, diabetes and hypertension—compared to European-Americans, even when controlling for other factors, such as health behaviors. But the reasons behind the health disparity are not well understood.

The current study sought to explore what role sleep in particular might play in driving these .

Using data from a sleep study, the team of investigators assessed both total sleep time and sleep efficiency—the percent of time spent in bed actually asleep—among 426 African-American and European-American adults who were included in the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study.

Each participant's cardiometabolic risk was then calculated as a composite of seven key biomarkers, such as blood pressure, weight circumference and insulin resistance.

The investigators discovered that African-Americans obtained 40 fewer minutes of sleep per night compared to European-Americans—341 minutes, compared to 381 minutes—and further had a 10 percent lower sleep efficiency rate.

Such differences, according to the authors, may be due to elevated exposure to social stress, including socioeconomic conditions and experiences of discrimination.

Overall, the investigators concluded that more than one-half of the in may be explained by these sleep differences between the two groups.

The authors note that the findings highlight the importance of considering sleep as a potential intervention point in reducing racial health disparities, especially given that are adjustable.

"This study is one of the first to examine how disparities in sleep are contributing to differences in metabolic diseases," Carnethon said. "What we hope is that as patients and healthcare providers become aware of these associations, they will prioritize considering sleep as an essential component of a healthy lifestyle."

Explore further: How much sleep do you really need?

More information: David S. Curtis et al. Habitual sleep as a contributor to racial differences in cardiometabolic risk, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1618167114

Related Stories

How much sleep do you really need?

July 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Health initiatives typically center on diet and fitness. But the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society state that getting enough sleep is just as important as eating right and exercising.

Sleep apnea and insomnia in African-Americans goes undiagnosed

May 22, 2017
African Americans with sleep apnea and insomnia are rarely diagnosed with either problem, even when the severity of the two sleep disorders are likely to affect their health, according to new research presented at the ATS ...

Study finds that genetic ancestry partially explains one racial sleep difference

August 21, 2015
A new study clearly establishes a partial genetic basis underlying racial differences in slow-wave sleep, suggesting that it may be possible to develop sleep-related therapies that target specific genetic variants.

Too little sleep may raise death risk in people with cluster of heart disease risk factors

May 24, 2017
People with a common cluster of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes were approximately twice as likely to die of heart disease or stroke as people without the same set of risk factors if they failed to get more than ...

Mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea is associated with hypertension, diabetes

June 5, 2017
Preliminary data from two studies suggest that mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension and diabetes.

One in three Americans gets too little sleep: study

February 18, 2016
One in three Americans does not get enough sleep on a regular basis, raising their risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, US health authorities said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Sleep apnea, congenital heart disease may be deadly mix for hospitalized infants

September 17, 2018
Infants often aren't screened for sleep apnea, but a new study suggests the disorder may be tied to an increased risk of death in infants with congenital heart disease.

Sleep deficiency increases risk of a motor vehicle crash

April 4, 2018
Excessive sleepiness can cause cognitive impairments and put individuals at a higher risk of motor vehicle crash. However, the perception of impairment from excessive sleepiness quickly plateaus in individuals who are chronically ...

Sleep apnea study finds male-female differences in cerebral cortex thickness, symptoms

March 13, 2018
Researchers from the UCLA School of Nursing examined clinical records and magnetic resonance imaging brain scans of patients who were recently diagnosed with sleep apnea, and discovered several apparent connections between ...

Synthetic cannabinoid reduces sleep apnea

November 29, 2017
A synthetic version of a molecule found in the cannabis plant was safe and effective in treating obstructive sleep apnea in the first large, multi-site study of a drug for the sleep disorder funded by the National Institutes ...

Sleeping through the snoring: Researchers identify neurons that rouse the brain to breathe

November 2, 2017
A common and potentially serious sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea affects at least one quarter of U.S. adults and is linked to increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. In a paper published today ...

Remede system approved for sleep apnea

October 9, 2017
(HealthDay)—The Remede sleep system, an implanted device that treats central sleep apnea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.