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  • Posted February 5, 2024

Black Americans Lose Sleep After High-Profile Police Killings

Police killings of unarmed Black people are robbing the Black community of a precious commodity – sleep.

Black adults across the United States suffer from sleep problems after they're exposed to news of killings that occur during police encounters, a new study published Feb. 5 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine finds.

Specifically, Black adults experienced increases in short sleep, lasting fewer than seven hours a night, and very short sleep of less than six hours nightly.

“These findings show that poor sleep health is another unfortunate byproduct of exposure to these tragic occurrences,” said lead researcher Dr. Atheendar Venkataramani, an associate professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

“Exposure of Black Americans to police violence -- which disproportionately effects Black individuals -- adversely impacts sleep health of these individuals, a critical keystone that further impacts our mental, physical and emotional well-being,” Venkataramani added in a university news release.

For the study, researchers analyzed changes in sleep duration tracked by two separate federal surveys, and tied those changes to data on officer-involved killings around the nation.

Results showed that about 46% of Black adults reported short sleep versus 33% of white respondents. For very short sleep, the numbers were 18.4% for Black adults and 10.4% for whites.

Researchers speculated that awareness of the deaths of Black people at the hands of the police could diminish expectations about future well-being, induce a sense of paranoia and hypervigilance, and increase stress levels. All of these have been associated with poor sleep.

This lack of good sleep could further harm the health of Black people in many ways, researchers said. For example, sleeplessness can contribute to depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

More information

The Sleep Foundation has more about race and sleep disorders.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania, news release, Feb. 5, 2024

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