Sleep Disorders

08 March 2010

Sleeping habits differ by ethnicity

Most African-Americans like to pray just before they do it, white Americans like to do it with their pets, Asians tend to do it best, and Hispanics fret about work just beforehand.


Most African-Americans like to pray just before they do it, white Americans like to do it with their pets, Asians tend to do it best, and Hispanics fret about work just beforehand.

It is sleep and the 2010 Sleep in America poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) shows that sleep habits differ depending on what ethnic group you belong to.

African-Americans have the busiest bedtime routine: three-quarters said they watched television in the hour before going to bed, and only slightly fewer - 71% - said they prayed.

Only 18% of Asians, one third of whites and just under half of Hispanics said they prayed before going to bed.

1 in 10 has sex every night

One in 10 African-Americans and Hispanics said they had sex every night - which is 10 times more than Asians and 2.5 times more than whites.

Asians slept the best, according to the study, said to be the first to look at the ethnic differencs of sleep in the United States.

As many as 85% of Asians said they had a good night's sleep at least a few nights or more a week, and most of them did it without sleep-aids.

Only 5% of Asians said they used a sleep medication at least a few nights a week compared with 13% of whites, 9% of blacks and 8% of Hispanics.

Kept awake by worries

Hispanics are the most likely to say they are kept awake by financial, employment, personal relationship or health-related concerns, the study shows.

Nearly four in 10 Hispanics (38%) and a third of African-Americans reported losing sleep a few nights a week over any of those concerns compared to about one-quarter of whites or Asians.

Around 20% of Hispanics and blacks said they lost sleep every night over economic, health or personal issues.

Sleep with pets

Whites, meanwhile, were the most likely to report sleeping with their pets: 14% of whites said they usually slept with Fido or Fluffy compared with just 2% of respondents from the other ethnic groups.

And Asians were the most likely to report sleeping in the same room with their children: 28% of Asians said they did compared to 22% of Hispanics, 15% of blacks and 8% of whites.

"If you are having trouble sleeping, and you sleep with your spouse, your child, your pet or all three, remember that may be contributing to sleep disturbances that prevent you from getting a good night's sleep," said Sonia Ancoli-Israel, chair of the NSF task force that conducted the poll.


But while there are differences, there are also similarities in different ethnic groups' sleep habits.

For instance, all groups said they had missed work or family functions because they were just too pooped (19% - 24%), and among couples living together, all ethnic groups frequently reported being too tired for sex - around a quarter of the time.

The NSF surveyed 1,007 adults aged 25-60 for the annual poll. - (Sapa/AFP, March 2010)


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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