Tonight, a story about another black-white “gap”. This time it’s a “sleep gap”: “an unexpected challenge in the quest for racial justice”.

We read:

In 2005, re­search­ers at the Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia, San Diego, began an ex­per­i­ment that would last five years. One by one, they brought 164 study par­ti­cipants to a sleep lab at the U.C. San Diego Med­ic­al Cen­ter, a room with a sweep­ing view of the city and the sur­round­ing val­ley. There, par­ti­cipants un­der­went poly­so­m­no­graphy, the most com­pre­hens­ive sleep test known to sci­ence.

… The San Diego re­search­ers planned to use the poly­so­m­no­graphy ma­chine to doc­u­ment slow-wave sleep—the phase of sleep “when it’s really hard to wake you up,” as Tom­fohr de­scribes it. Slow-wave sleep is thought to be the most res­tor­at­ive peri­od of sleep, and it’s im­port­ant to good health: Ex­per­i­ments where people are denied slow-wave sleep on pur­pose have shown that bod­ies quickly change for the worse.

… But it wasn’t just slow-wave sleep in gen­er­al that in­ter­ested the re­search­ers; they spe­cific­ally hoped to com­pare how blacks and whites ex­per­i­enced slow-wave sleep. And what they found was dis­turb­ing. Gen­er­ally, people are thought to spend 20 per­cent of their night in slow-wave sleep, and the study’s white par­ti­cipants hit this mark. Black par­ti­cipants, however, spent only about 15 per­cent of the night in slow-wave sleep. The study was just one data point in a mount­ing pile of evid­ence that black Amer­ic­ans aren’t sleep­ing as well as whites.

That’s not all. We learn also that:

[R]e­search­ers have found evid­ence that the farther people live from a wealth­i­er area, the more likely they are to de­vel­op in­sulin res­ist­ance…

If only there were some way we could get people to live at equal distances from wealthy areas…

… but we’ll have leave that for another session of SCOTUS, I’m afraid. Anyway, getting back to sleep:

What’s more, the sleep dis­crep­ancy per­sisted even when the re­search­ers tried to con­trol for eco­nom­ic factors: As blacks got wealth­i­er, the gap in sleep nar­rowed, but did not go away en­tirely. “The race gap is de­creased if you take in­to ac­count some in­dic­at­or of eco­nom­ics,” says Laud­er­dale, “but it’s not elim­in­ated in the data that I have looked at.” In­deed, in the San Diego study, re­search­ers also con­cluded that there were ra­cial dif­fer­ences in sleep re­gard­less of in­come. (It should be noted, however, that re­search­ers con­cede their at­tempts to con­trol for eco­nom­ic in­dic­at­ors are far from per­fect. “We know our meas­ures for ad­just­ing for so­cioeco­nom­ic status are still some­what lim­ited,” says Red­line. “Some­times the vari­ation isn’t great enough.”)

So what ex­plains the gap?

What indeed?

It’s an in­triguing and still some­what open-ended sci­entif­ic mys­tery. (And one that is that gradu­ally get­ting more and more at­ten­tion: In Ju­ly, the ra­dio pro­gram Freako­nom­ics ded­ic­ated a seg­ment to doc­u­ment­ing the dis­crep­ancy and try­ing to ex­plain why it might ex­ist.) But the black-white sleep gap isn’t just a ques­tion for sci­ence; it also has im­plic­a­tions for the policy world. Sleep, after all, may be a key factor in a tra­gic spir­al: It ap­pears to be both a symp­tom of health prob­lems that dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect black com­munit­ies and also a cause of those same prob­lems.

The question, obviously, is:

Are there policy in­ter­ven­tions that could, real­ist­ic­ally, help to im­prove how black Amer­ic­ans sleep?

The government must get to work at once! But before we can enact costly policies, though, of course we’ll need to know exactly what the real cause is, right? (Like maybe black people and white people are just, well, different in some way that manifests itself, directly or indirectly, in different sleep patterns?)

…Ha! Just kidding:

On the question of how to ex­plain the black-white sleep gap it­self, re­search­ers have a num­ber of re­lated the­or­ies. (There is a con­sensus that in­nate bio­lo­gic­al dif­fer­ences between blacks and whites are not a factor.)

Oh, OK. (No need to tell us why there is such a consensus, or give us any data, or anything.)

We’re pretty sure we’ve got our eye on the culprit, and what it is that “relates” all those theories:

The stress caused by dis­crim­in­a­tion is one strong pos­sib­il­ity. In the San Diego sleep study, Tom­fohr’s team knew, go­ing in, that slow-wave sleep is very sens­it­ive to stress—which is, in turn, our body’s sig­nal to re­main vi­gil­ant against per­ceived threats, in­clud­ing dis­crim­in­a­tion. “That was our thought: If people are feel­ing really dis­crim­in­ated against, then of course they are not go­ing to want to get in­to a really deep stage of sleep,” she says.

The envelope, please…

…Racism it is!!

Any questions? I thought not. Good.


  1. Whitewall says

    “There is a “consensus” that innate differences between blacks and whites are not a factor”? What a tidy, no fuss no muss way to shut off that which scientists angling for more funding just don’t want to deal with. Medical science becomes social science then social science becomes public policy and then public policy becomes constituent based entitlement.

    What this sleep research will eventually tie itself to is a small opinion the USSC handed down a few months ago that was overlooked because of the major items of treachery they decided which dominated the news. Specifically–
    “Texas Department of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project (heard January 21, 2015; decided June 25, 2015)

    A divided Court backed the concept of disparate impact, where housing policies with outcomes that discriminate can be challenged under the terms of the Fair Housing Act, even if there wasn’t a deliberate intent to discriminate.

    This case began in 2008, when the Inclusive Communities Project (or ICP) filed a lawsuit against the Texas state agency for the distribution of tax credits in a way that reinforces and increases racial segregation. Because landlords who receive the tax credits are required to accept affordable-housing vouchers from low-income tenants—many of whom come from minority communities—the allocation of those credits has an outsized impact on racial housing patterns. Courts at the district and circuit levels agreed with the ICP, concluding that Texas’ distribution of tax credits violated the Fair Housing Act because of its “disparate impact” on minorities.

    “The court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion.”

    This decision goes far beyond just the matter in Texas. Nationally it will find its way into every housing development of every kind where any Federal dollars might be involved. With this and any “science” they can point to, the social engineers and central planners will begin designing the communities they imagine in their own utopian make believe.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  2. Science? Bah humbug! Oh, wait — wrong holiday. Nevermind.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink
  3. Whitewall says

    Henry…you’re looking for the wrong costume.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  4. Robert, my costume is always the same: jeans, T-shirt, running shoes, and ball cap. Yup, I am masquerading as a scientist.

    [The long white lab coats are only worn in TV commercials.]

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  5. Oddly, this putative problem doesn’t seem to be one blacks–who are socially encouraged to bellyache loudly about perceived problems and suffered injustices–have any self-awareness of.

    In 2010 and 2014, the GSS asked respondents how often they’ve had trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep in the past year. The percentages among whites (n = 1,802), blacks (n = 354), and Hispanics (n = 127) who answered either “often” or “sometimes”:

    White — 57.5%
    Black — 48.4%
    Hispanic — 55.2%

    Curiously, the ordering runs in the opposite direction of what the oppression narrative would suggest. Perhaps it’s the guilt weighing on whites and the clean consciences blacks enjoy that allow the latter to sleep better than the former despite the disadvantages they suffer in terms of poverty, discrimination, and loud music!

    The item contains four possible responses–often, sometimes, rarely, never. If we just look at “often”, we get 23.1% for whites, 15.8% for blacks, and 19.1% for Hispanics. If we go the other direction and look at “never” responses, we get 17.0% for whites, 21.9% for blacks, and 21.9% for Hispanics.

    No matter how it is sliced, blacks report significantly less trouble sleeping well than whites do.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Permalink
  6. “No matter how it is sliced, …”

    Nevertheless, the Leftist slicers will find a way to muckrake lies, damn lies, and statistics to “document” their social agenda.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  7. Whitewall says

    Never let muck raked lies ie social science go to waste. They will build communities with this stuff.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  8. Dom says

    A few years from now, someone will try to replicate this study and find different results. Social science isn’t science anymore. It’s just a way to restate the narrative.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  9. Dom says

    And it’s not just social science. Look what I just found:

    “The paper, published in the BMJ in 1989 by Dr. Ranjit Chandra, then based at Memorial University in St. John’s, is being pulled as a result of mounting evidence that he falsified information, fabricated study participants and had no raw data to back up the claims made by his research into the rate of eczema among babies who were either breast or formula fed.

    The study concluded that eczema rates were low in breastfed babies whose mothers avoided dairy, peanuts and other allergens. The rates were similarly low for babies fed a special hypoallergenic formula compared with those that consumed soy- or cow’s milk-based formula. This led Dr. Chandra to recommend hypoallergenic formula to babies at risk of eczema if their mothers chose not to breastfeed. The study was funded in part by Mead Johnson, which produced the hypoallergenic formula used in the study.”

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 5:39 pm | Permalink
  10. JK says

    Quick. Somebody get into the hands of those re­search­ers at the Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia, San Diego, this website!

    It simply must be some kinda stereotyping.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    Right, Dom: replication is becoming a troublesome issue in science generally.

    Posted October 31, 2015 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  12. We don’t need no stinkin’ replication …

    Posted November 1, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  13. antiquarian says

    One would think it would be simple enough to find a control group for this sort of thing. Just replicate the tests over in Africa and the West Indies, and with immigrants to the U.S. from those places. Hey Mr. Sowell, can you weigh in?

    Posted November 2, 2015 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

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