This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on sleep across the lifespan and its effect on our overall health. Erricka Hager, health advocate at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, spoke about this topic.
EH: Good morning, Ms. Bush. It has been a few weeks since our last health page. It’s nice to talk with you again, especially when we get an opportunity to chat about a topic that is meaningful to all of us, no matter who we are.
EB: Yes, Erricka; it’s great that you say that. Sleep is a topic that normally isn’t talked about as much in the African American community, especially as it relates so vitally to our health. We can all benefit from a better knowledge of the impact of sleep and how it affects us at various stages of our lives.
EH: I absolutely agree, Ms. Bush. Did you know that studies consistently find that Black Americans sleep more poorly than White Americans? Roughly half of Black Americans don’t get enough sleep, and poor sleep contributes to a vicious cycle of poor health outcomes. Factors like living in neighborhoods with higher crime rates or having to work multiple jobs can contribute to Black Americans not getting enough sleep. Black Americans are suffering from a “sleep gap” due to unequal access to safe and comfortable sleep environments.
EB: Wow! Thank you, Erricka, for all this new information. I also saw Dr. Buysse noting in the overview that African Americans are disproportionately represented in night-shift work, which contributes to an increase in poor sleep outcomes.
EH: That’s right, Ms. Bush. Poor sleep outcomes in night-shift workers are being linked to an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease—both of which continue to disproportionally affect Black Americans. Dr. Buysse is currently recruiting retired night-shift workers for a study to help pinpoint how a lack of sleep contributes to poor health outcomes like obesity or diabetes.
EB: Yes, Erricka. The study being conducted by Dr. Buysse and his team will be clearly beneficial to the communities we serve. I hope that African American readers of this column will consider participating. What would be your advice to folks reading this article, both night-shift workers and otherwise?
EH: Foremost, it’s important to recognize that an ample amount of sleep is essential to the overall well-being and health of a community. But also, our readers should know that there are research studies being done at the University of Pittsburgh about sleep and its effect on our health. Getting involved with research studies is one of the best ways for us to help to improve health outcomes for future generations of Black Americans.
EB: Thank you for having this chat with me, Erricka. We’ve provided all readers with some great information and ways they can take charge of their health today. I look forward to chatting with you next month as we discuss depression and its relationship to mental health.