Sleep Habits Vary by Ethnicity

Sleep Problems, Habits Differ by Ethnic Group, but All Groups Are Sleep Deprived, Survey Finds

From the WebMD Archives


The Sleep Survey, by Ethnicity

Beyond those findings that seem to hold for all respondents, Kryger says the study found some distinct differences.

  • On weekdays or workdays, blacks reported they slept the least -- 6 hours, 14 minutes, compared to 6 hours, 34 minutes for Hispanics, 6 hours, 48 minutes for Asians, and 6 hours, 52 minutes for whites.
  • Ten percent of blacks and 10% of Hispanics report having sex every night or nearly every night in the hour before bedtime, compared to 4% of whites and 1% of Asians.
  • Blacks had different pre-bedtime activities and tended to pray in the hour before bedtime, Kryger says. ''Seventy-one percent of black people polled said they prayed,” he said. “But only 18% of Asians."
  • Asians are least likely to drink alcohol an hour before bed -- a practice that many mistakenly think will help sleep. Only 1% of Asians had a nightcap every night or nearly every night, compared to 7% of whites, 4% of blacks, and 4% of Hispanics.
  • Hispanics polled are more likely than other groups to say health-related concerns disturb their sleep at least a few nights a week -- 16% of Hispanics, compared to 12% of blacks, 9% of Asians, and 7% of whites.
  • Whites are most likely to sleep with their pets -- as well as more likely to sleep with their spouse or significant others. Sixteen percent of white respondents say they sleep with a pet, and 72% say they sleep with their partners. In comparison, only 4% of Asians, 4% of Hispanics, and 2% of black people let the pet on the bed. But the space isn't always saved for a spouse or partner, apparently. Only 48% of blacks and Asians sleep with a ''significant other," and 54% of Hispanics.
  • Recession-related stresses affected sleep to different degrees, with Hispanics and blacks more affected than whites or Asians.

Sleep Improvements

How can you improve your sleep? Based on the survey findings, Kryger offered advice for each ethnic group:

  • Black people may need more awareness of sleep apnea symptoms. The condition, in which a person stops breathing for brief periods during sleep, can be serious. Daytime sleepiness and snoring are among the symptoms.
  • Asians should consider bringing up sleep problems with their doctors, he says, as they were the least likely to do that in the survey.
  • Hispanic people were most likely to say health-related concerns disturb their sleep, and Kryger suggests they, too, discuss the issues with their doctor.
  • White people take sleep aids more often than other groups, Kryger says, and they should consider alternatives to prescription sleeping pills, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.