Good Night (and Good Luck!)

by Seni George

African Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. Here’s how to score some shut-eye Doyou find yourself hitting the snooze button every morning or draggingyourself out of bed? A recent study may explain why. Researchers at theUniversity of Chicago recorded the sleeping habits of 669 participantsand found that while white women slept, on average, 6.7 hours a nightand white men 6.1 hours, black women sawed logs for only 5.9 hours andblack men for 5.1, the least of all involved in the study. Not only didblack participants have a harder time falling asleep, they didn’t sleepas deeply.

Researchers suspect that money may be a factor.More than 60% of the white enrollees earned at least $75,000, comparedwith only 24% of their black counterparts, perhaps providing wealthiersleepers with a more relaxing environment and fewer worries. Black menwere also more likely to drink alcohol, which leads to lighter, moredisrupted slumber.

A good night’s rest not only assures you’llbe alert at morning meetings; it restores the body and lowers the riskof diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Insomniacs are also at greaterrisk of developing mental health problems, including depression andsubstance abuse.

Many people turn to prescription orover-the-counter sleep medications when they have trouble catching Z’s.According to the American Insomnia Association, sleep meds aregenerally not dangerous if they are taken as directed. Still, they canhave side effects, such as drowsiness or dry mouth, and they carry therisk of dependency.

Simple lifestyle changes can help yousleep better. The National Sleep Foundation suggests scheduling aregular bedtime and wake time; sleeping on a comfortable mattress;eliminating bedroom distractions, such as TV; finishing meals at leasttwo to three hours before bedtime; and refraining from alcohol,caffeine and nicotine before bed. If you still don’t feel rested, seekprofessional help; insomnia can signal an underlying illness. Not alldocs are well schooled on sleep, though; if your family physician can’thelp you, seek a specialist. Visit to find a sleepcenter near you.