The toll of ethnic discrimination on sleep architecture and fatigue

Health Psychol. 2006 Sep;25(5):635-42. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.25.5.635.


Most work on ethnicity tends to focus on daytime health rather than how aspects of ethnicity affect nighttime functioning. The current study examined how discrimination and ethnic identity relate to sleep architecture and fatigue in 37 African Americans and 56 Caucasian Americans. The authors conducted sleep monitoring with standard polysomnography. African Americans had less slow-wave sleep and reported more physical fatigue than did Caucasian Americans (ps < .05). The authors conducted path analyses to examine relationships between ethnic identity, perceived discrimination, sleep, and fatigue. Perceived discrimination mediated ethnic differences in Stage 4 sleep and physical fatigue. Individuals who reported experiencing more discrimination had less Stage 4 sleep and reported experiencing greater physical fatigue (ps < .05). Although ethnic identity did not mediate ethnic differences in sleep latency, there was a significant relationship between ethnic identity and sleep latency, indicating that individuals who felt more connected to their ethnic group had more difficulty falling asleep while in the hospital (p < .05). These observations suggest that the effects of stress related to one's ethnic group membership carry over into sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Fatigue / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Prejudice*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Social Identification
  • Social Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*