Home Doctor NewsMental health Growing up in unsafe neighbourhood badly impacts sleep in adulthood, research finds

Growing up in unsafe neighbourhood badly impacts sleep in adulthood, research finds

by Vaishali Sharma

A recent research of Black women found that growing up in a hazardous neighbourhood was connected with lower sleep in adulthood.

At the ages of 5, 10, and 15, 1,611 Black women in Detroit, Michigan, who participated in the Study of Environment, Lifestyle, and Fibroids, rated their perceived childhood neighbourhood safety. Participants also reported on their sleep duration, quality, and symptoms of insomnia.

According to the findings, people who evaluated their neighbourhood as risky vs safe at each age were more likely to wake up feeling tired as adults. Approximately 60% of women reported sleeping for fewer than seven hours each night and regularly waking up feeling tired during adulthood, whereas 10% had chronic insomnia symptoms.

At ages 5 and 15, being in a dangerous neighbourhood was connected with frequent insomnia symptoms and frequently waking up feeling tired.

Participants who viewed their neighbourhood as hazardous when they were 10 years old had a somewhat greater incidence of both frequent waking up feeling tired and frequent insomnia symptoms in adulthood.

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“Due to structural racism and historical practices of redlining as well as contemporary residential segregation, Black/African American children are disproportionately overrepresented in neighbourhoods characterized by concentrated poverty and being unsafe,” said lead author Symielle Gaston, who has a doctorate in epidemiology and is a research fellow with the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.

Gaston added, “Our results suggest that intervening to help make a child’s neighbourhood feel safe, a modifiable target in which both communities and policymakers can intercede, may help prevent other downstream risk factors, namely poor sleep health before it develops and potentially negatively impacts both mental and physical health.”

Gaston added that while addressing neighbourhood safety at any age is important, middle childhood may be an optimal time for safety and sleep interventions since relationships between perceived safety with adulthood sleep were most consistent. She hopes to continue this line of research using objective measures over the life course and in different geographic areas.

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