The 2010 Sleep in America poll released by the National Sleep
Foundation (NSF) reveals significant differences in the sleep habits
and attitudes of Asians, Blacks/African-Americans, Hispanics and
Whites. It is the first poll to examine sleep among these four ethnic
NSF’s Sleep in America poll found that more than three-fourths of
respondents from each ethnic group agree that poor sleep is associated with health problems (76-83%). These new findings echo lessons learned by former President Bill Clinton who recently admitted that he has adopted a new lifestyle regimen to sleep seven or more hours on the advice of his doctors.
The poll also shows that all groups report disturbingly similar
experiences missing work or family functions because they were too
sleepy (19-24%). Among married people or couples living together, all ethnic groups report being too tired for sex frequently (21- 26% of the time).
“As the leading voice of sleep health, we are committed to better
understanding people’s sleep needs,” says David Cloud, CEO of the
National Sleep Foundation. “By exploring ethnic and family sleep
practices we have gained new insight into why we sleep the way we do.”
Blacks/African-Americans report the busiest bedtime routines
Blacks/African-Americans are the most likely to report performing
activities in the hour before going to bed every night or almost every night, specifically watching TV (75%) and/or praying or doing another religious practice (71%). Whether on weekdays/workdays or
non-workdays/weekends, Blacks/African-Americans spend much more time in bed without sleeping than the other ethnic groups (54 minutes on weekdays/workdays and 71 minutes on non workdays/weekends).
— Blacks/African-Americans and Hispanics (10% each) are ten times more
likely to report having sex every night than Asians (1%) and 2.5 times more likely than Whites (4%).
— Most Blacks/African-Americans report praying every night (71%); more than four times the reported frequency of Asians (18%), twice the rate of Whites (32%) and 1.5 times the rate of Hispanics (45%).
— Blacks/African-Americans (17%) and Asians (16%) are more likely than
Whites (9%) and Hispanics (13%) to report doing job-related work in
the hour before bed, among those employed.
— Blacks/African-Americans report losing sleep every night over personal
financial concerns (12%) and employment concerns (10%) at a higher
rate than Whites (6% and 7%) or Asians (1% and 4%). Hispanics are
almost equally concerned each night about these two issues (11% and
“The hour before bed is an important time to relax and wind-down
before going to sleep,” says Thomas J. Balkin, Ph.D., Chairman of the
National Sleep Foundation. “For those who are having problems
sleeping, it’s a good idea to consider whether your bedtime routines
may be too alerting.”
Asians report getting the best sleep, report the least amount of sleep
problems and infrequent use of sleep aids
Asians are the most likely ethnic group (84%) to say that they had a
good night’s sleep at least a few nights or more a week. In addition,
Asians are about half as likely (14%) to discuss their sleep issues
with a healthcare professional, and are half as likely (10%) to report
having been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Asians are the least
likely to report using sleep medication at least a few nights a week
(5% versus 13% Whites, 9% Blacks/African-Americans and 8% Hispanics).
— Asians are the least likely (9%) to say that they “rarely” or “never”
have a good night’s sleep, compared with 20% of Whites, 18% of
Blacks/African-Americans and 14% of Hispanics.
— The poll shows that Asians are more than twice as likely to use the
Internet every night in comparison to any other group (51% versus 22%
Whites, 20% Blacks/African-Americans, 20% Hispanics). They are also
the least likely to watch TV an hour before sleep (52% versus 64%
Whites, 72% Hispanics and 75% Blacks/African-Americans).
— Asians report the use of herbal and alternative therapies at rates
similar to Hispanics (2% each), but less than Whites (4%).
— Asians report the lowest rates of losing sleep due to personal
financial concerns at least a few nights a week (9% versus 22%
Hispanics, 20% Whites and 19% Blacks/African-Americans).
While Blacks/African-Americans report the least amount of sleep, they also say they need less sleep
Blacks/African-Americans report getting the least amount of sleep on workdays/weekdays (6 hours and 14 minutes). Interestingly, they also say that they need only 7 hours and 5 minutes of sleep each night to perform at their best during the day, which is significantly less sleep than Asians and Hispanics (7 hours and 29 minutes each).
— Blacks/African-Americans report getting an average of 34 minutes less sleep on a work night/weeknight than Asians and 38 minutes less than Whites.
“The finding that Blacks/African-Americans say they need less sleep
and get less sleep is instructive for public health professionals,”
says Jose S. Loredo, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “Their total sleep time and attitudes regarding sleep may be associated with Blacks/African-Americans’
higher rates of sleep apnea, hypertension and diabetes and provide
sleep-related insight into how to improve awareness and education
programs and, very importantly, how to improve therapy compliance
Hispanics are the most likely to say they are kept awake by financial, employment, personal relationship and/or health-related concerns
Overall, at least one-third of Hispanics (38%) and Blacks/African-Americans (33%) report that any of these concerns disturb their sleep at least a few nights a week, compared to about one-fourth of Whites (28%) and/or Asians (25%).
— Moreover, about two in ten Hispanics (19%) and
Blacks/African-Americans (19%) say their sleep is disturbed every night or almost every night by at least one of these concerns.
— Hispanics (16%) are more likely than Blacks/African-Americans (12%),
Asians (9%) and Whites (7%) to say that health-related concerns have disturbed their sleep at least a few nights a week.
“So many people are suffering because of economic uncertainty,” says
Martica Hall, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the
University of Pittsburgh. “If you find yourself lying awake worrying,
write a note to yourself to work on these issues the next day so you
can dismiss those ideas at bed time. Consider using relaxation
techniques and focus on calming activities and thoughts. If your
problems persist, you may want to seek out a sleep professional.”
Whites are the most likely to report sleeping with their pets and/or
their significant other/spouse
Among those married or partnered, Whites are much more likely (14%) than the other ethnic groups (2% each) to say they usually sleep with a pet.
— Among those married or partnered, 90% of Whites report that they sleep with their significant other compared to 84% of
Blacks/African-Americans, 76% of Hispanics and 67% of Asians.
— Interestingly, among all respondents, Whites are the least likely to
say they sleep alone (21% versus 41% Blacks/African-Americans, 37%
Asians and 31% Hispanics).
Among those married or partnered respondents with children, Asians
(28%) and Hispanics (22%) are the most likely to report that they
sleep in the same room with their children (compared to 15% of
Blacks/African-Americans and 8% of Whites).*
“Other studies support the findings that co-sleeping with children is
prevalent with Asians,” says Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Ph.D., chair of the
National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America Poll Task Force. “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
*Bed sharing/co-sleeping is a complex and controversial practice. This
study did not specifically examine the issue of sleeping with infants,
nor does the National Sleep Foundation wish to have these results
misconstrued to suggest a position on the practice. Parental
counseling about infant sleep environments is strongly suggested.
Sleep disorder diagnosis is uneven among the four ethnic groups.
The 2010 poll found that sleep disorders continue to be very common
among the adults surveyed, with specific disorders occurring at
different frequency among the four groups.
— Whites report the highest rate of diagnosis for insomnia (10%), and
Blacks/African-Americans have the highest rate of diagnosed sleep
apnea (14%) among the four groups.
— Among those experiencing sleep problems, Whites are the most likely to
report using over-the-counter sleep aids at least a few nights a week
(7%). Blacks/African-Americans are almost twice as likely to report
taking medications prescribed by a doctor (7%) rather than
over-the-counter sleep aids (3%). Asians are the least likely to
report using any form of sleep medication (5%).
“If you are experiencing problems sleeping,” says Balkin, “take charge
of your own sleep. You should critically examine your bedtime routines
and pre-sleep activities and make time to ensure your bedroom is
conducive to your sleep comfort. You will spend approximately a third
of your life in bed, so it’s worth it to take time to make sure your
bed and bedtime routine are right for you. If you continue having
problems sleeping for more than a few weeks, it’s advisable to speak
with your healthcare professional.”
Ethnic groups seek help for sleep problems differently
When experiencing a specific sleep problem, Blacks/African-Americans
say they are more likely to speak with their doctor (16%) or research
online (10%) than to get recommendations from friends or family (4%).
— Asians (15%) are the most likely to say they get advice from family
— Respondents were also asked if their healthcare professional or doctor
had ever asked them about their sleep during a routine visit. At least
four in ten Whites (48%), Blacks/African-Americans (42%) and Hispanics
(40%) say yes; however, only 28% of Asians had been asked about sleep
by their doctor.
“We are making progress with physicians and patients discussing sleep
issues in regular office visits,” says Cloud. “But we still have a lot
of work to do to make sleep a routine part of every physician-patient
Adds David G. Davila, MD, Medical Director of the Baptist Health Sleep
Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, “Sleep is a vital sign for overall
health, therefore, discussing sleep problems should be an important
part of health check ups for doctors and patients, especially since
sleep disorders can affect many other medical conditions.”
For the most comprehensive source of information on sleep health,
visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website,
www.sleepfoundation.org. The website also provides a directory of
sleep professionals and sleep centers in your community. You can also
read the complete “Summary of Findings” and “Highlights” from this
year’s Sleep in America poll and polls from prior years.
Healthy Sleep Advice
The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following to improve your sleep:
— Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending
more time in bed than needed.
— Use bright light to help manage your “body clock.” Avoid bright light
in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
— Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between
your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers
and televisions from your bedroom.
— Select a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to
— Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark
and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
— Reduce or eliminate your intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
— Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write
them in a “worry book” so you can address those issues the next day.
— If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing
until you feel tired.
— Exercise regularly, but avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime.
Poll Methodology and Definitions
The National Sleep Foundation began surveying American sleep health
and behaviors in 1991. The 2010 Sleep in America annual poll was
conducted for the National Sleep Foundation by WB&A Market Research,
using a random sample of 1,007 adults between the ages of 25-60 and
identifying themselves as White, Black/African-American, Asian or
Hispanic. This poll has adopted the group definition used by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Census
Bureau, and related public health groups; while NSF also acknowledges
that this is an imperfect description of race and ethnic groups. No
effort was made to verify the accuracy of the respondent’s
self-identification. Individuals from other ethnic groups were
excluded from participating. The Sleep in America Poll Task Force did
consider economic factors in analyzing the data. The margin of error
is +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
2010 Sleep in America Poll Task Force
Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Ph.D. (Chair)
Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Gillin Sleep and Chronomedicine Research Center
Department of Psychiatry
University of California, San Diego
Daniel P. Chapman, Ph.D.
National Center for Chronic Disease
Prevention & Health Promotion
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Martica Hall, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh
Kenneth L. Lichstein, Ph.D.
Director, Sleep Research Project
Department of Psychology
The University of Alabama
Jose S. Loredo, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., F.C.C.P.
Professor of Medicine
Medical Director, Sleep Medicine Center
University of California, San Diego
NSF released the poll findings as part of its 13th annual National
Sleep Awareness Week® campaign, held March 7-13, 2010, that culminates
with the change to Daylight Saving Time on March 14th. With the change
of clocks, NSF wishes to remind Americans that losing sleep is an
important health consideration.
The National Sleep Foundation hosts the Sleep Health and Safety
conference March 5-6, 2010 in Washington to advance sleep health
education for health professionals and public policy leaders.
One thought on “Poll reveals interesting sleep differences among ethnic groups”
Black African/Hispanic Americans are 10 times more likely to have sex at night than Asians. I would imagine it must be very difficult for Asians deciding which one is the man.
“No, you look like the woman. NO YOU DO!!”
Nah, it’s probably only a small cultural thang.