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There are several health conditions that disproportionally affect African Americans. And now poor sleep quality has been named as a significant reason why more Black drivers are falling asleep behind the wheel compared to other races, a new study revealed.

The effects of racism and toxic stress on people of color have been confirmed by extensive research in recent years, including the impact on sleeping patterns. Many African Americans may start driving while still drowsy, making it very dangerous for them to be on the road. In fact, this danger is something faced more by drivers of color than their White counterparts.

Black and Hispanic motorists are at twice the risk of falling asleep at the wheel compared to Whites, says the study published recently in the journal Sleep Health.

Evidently, sleep conditions like snoring are closely related to the disparity between Whites and Blacks. Issues including feeling sleepy during the day, getting too little sleep and snoring accounted for about 25 percent of the racial differences, the study team told Reuters. Their research included surveys with nearly 200,000 adults across 35 states.

The study’s numbers don’t sound good: drowsy drivers contribute to as many as 328,000 crashes and 6,400 deaths each year in the nation.

Much of the racial disparity behind drowsy driving has not been explained by researchers, noted Dr. Sanjay Patel, senior study author and director of the Center for Sleep and Cardiovascular Outcomes Research at the University of Pittsburgh. Factors such as alcohol abuse or risk-taking behaviors were not cited as reasons why more Black and Hispanic drivers face twice the risk of dozing off while driving.

The larger issue, however, is the overall discrimination that people of color face, as compared to Whites, when it comes to the U.S. health care system. Specifically, the economic barriers to getting the best health care, including doctors and medicine, is a matter that must be taken up.


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