Conference Coverage

Sleep problems may point to health disparity for black women


Key clinical point: Black women are at greater risk for poor sleep help than white women.

Major finding: Beta coefficient for BMI and sleep health was –0.14 for black women and 0.1 for white women.

Study details: The SWAN sleep study, a multicenter, longitudinal, epidemiologic study of 265 midlife women.

Disclosures: Ms. Bowman and her coauthors reported no financial relationships. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, and the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health.



BALTIMORE – Analysis of data from a national multicenter study of women’s health has found that middle-aged black women were at higher risk for sleep problems than their white counterparts, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of the Associated Sleep Societies.

Marissa Bowman, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh

Marissa Bowman

She noted that black women in the study were more likely to have poor sleep quality as assessed by Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, shorter sleep duration as assessed by polysomnography, longer periods of wakefulness after sleep onset, shorter sleep efficiency, and apnea-hypopnea index greater than 15. The study evaluated six factors of sleep quality: regularity, satisfaction, alertness, timing, efficiency, and duration.

At baseline, the study assessed sleep health using both actigraphy and a daily diary, along with body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and waist-to-hip ratio (WHpR), then collected data on the anthropometric factors 10-15 years later.

Cross-sectional and prospective analyses found that sleep health was correlated with lower BMI but was not significantly associated with WC or WHpR. A prospective analysis found no overall significant correlation between sleep health and any of the three factors. But in a separate the analysis of the study group by race, all three anthropometric factors had a stronger link to sleep health in black women than in those of European descent, respectively, with beta coefficients of –0.14 vs. 0.1 for BMI, –0.17 and 0.1 for WC and –0.17 and 0.07 for WHpR.

“We need to explain this association and conceptualize how sleep health might be more strongly related with weight in African Americans,” Ms. Bowman said. “One possibility might be that sleep health reflects a health disparity. We can see how race is related to other health disparities, and this might be one of them.”

During questions, Ms. Bowman acknowledged that SWAN did not have data on what kind of access to health care the black women in the study had. “That might be a possible reason they’re not getting their sleep treated; they’re not getting other health factors treated,” she said.

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