Sleep-related attitudes, beliefs, and practices among an urban-dwelling African American community: a qualitative study

Sleep Health. 2019 Aug;5(4):418-425. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2019.06.004. Epub 2019 Jul 11.


Objectives: Short sleep duration and poor sleep quality are more prevalent among African Americans (AAs) and may be a modifiable risk factor for cardiometabolic disorders. However, research is limited about sleep-related attitudes, beliefs, and practices among AAs. Our objective was to evaluate these practices and beliefs surrounding sleep among urban-dwelling AAs.

Design: Qualitative study comprised of five 90-minute focus groups using a semistructured interview guide.

Setting: Five churches located on the west side of Chicago.

Participants: Adults (N = 43) ages 25-75 years.

Measurements: Transcripts were voice recorded, transcribed, and then coded for content analysis using NVivo 12 Pro to capture themes in the discussions.

Results: Most participants (86%) reported sleeping less than the recommended 7 or more hours. The discrepancy between actual and desired sleep duration was nearly 3 hours per night. Participants reported that sleep is essential for mental and physical health. Napping and consuming caffeine were frequently reported techniques for coping with lack of sleep. Noise, physical discomfort, and stress were reported as barriers to sleep, and participants reported using TV and other electronics to cope with racing thoughts or worry. Many participants were diagnosed with or knew someone with obstructive sleep apnea, but few participants had been diagnosed with insomnia or were aware of nonpharmacologic insomnia treatments.

Conclusion: A cycle of stress/disruptive environment, stress, rumination at night, and coping by use of electronics and daytime napping may perpetuate sleep disparities in this community. Results suggest that sleep-related interventions should include stress reduction and environmental improvements in addition to the typical sleep hygiene-related behavioral recommendations.

Keywords: African American; Sleep beliefs; Sleep disorders; Sleep disparities; Stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Chicago
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sleep*
  • Urban Population* / statistics & numerical data