Newswise — PHILADELPHIA — Black adults across the United States are experiencing sleep problems after receiving news of unarmed Black people being killed by police during police operations new findings published today In JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The problem could compound the risk factors that poor sleep already poses for many chronic and mental illnesses, from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder, researchers say.

The researchers conducted two separate analyzes to examine changes in sleep duration in the non-Hispanic black U.S. population before and after exposure to such deaths of unarmed black people. They used data on adult respondents to the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) and the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and data on officer-involved killings from the Mapping Police Violence database, a nationally representative sample of 100,000 black adults. “Exposure” was defined by the county or state of residence of the survey respondent and captured the myriad ways in which these events become known to the public, such as through viewing media reports or participating in community discussions on the topic. Researchers also examined the impact of incidents in which unarmed black people were killed by officers that were widely reported in the national media, and examined the sleep duration of respondents living anywhere in the U.S. before and after such incidents.

A deterioration in sleep duration was primarily reflected in an increase in short sleep (less than seven hours per night) and very short sleep (less than six hours per night). The results specifically addressed exposure to deaths of unarmed black people during interactions with law enforcement, and no negative effects on sleep health were found among white respondents. In the BRFSS, 45.9 percent of black respondents reported short sleep compared to 32.6 percent of white respondents; the corresponding values ​​for very short sleep were 18.4 percent versus 10.4 percent.

“These results demonstrate that poor sleep health is another unfortunate byproduct of exposure to these tragic events,” said the study’s lead author. Atheendar S. Venkataramani, MD, PhD, associate professor of medical ethics and health policy. “When Black Americans are exposed to police violence – which disproportionately affects Black people – it negatively impacts these people’s sleep health, a critical cornerstone that further impacts our mental, physical and emotional well-being.”

The insights build previously published Working on the effects of structural racism – neighborhood violence, occupational stratification and shift work, and individual experiences of discrimination – on sleep health.

The researchers also found that exposure to fatal and nonfatal encounters with police is associated with poor health outcomes. Researchers suspected that poor sleep may be related to these other health outcomes in several ways. For example, awareness of the deaths of other Black people can reduce expectations of future well-being and longevity, produce hypervigilance, and increased stress, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many of which are associated with poor sleep.

Additionally, through prominent media coverage, the researchers found that exposure to these killings carries “spillover” consequences, suggesting that trauma management efforts may need to be made far beyond the communities in which the murders occur Events occur.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (1R01MD014023-01A1).


Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the interrelated missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of MedicineFounded in 1765 as the country’s first medical school.

With $550 million in grants in fiscal year 2022, the Perelman School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation’s largest recipients of National Institutes of Health funding. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T-cell therapy for cancer and mRNA technology, which is used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities extend from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey coast. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health and Pennsylvania Hospital – the country’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Other facilities and businesses include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion company powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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