Purpose Many epidemiological studies have reported that sleep problems are frequent in children. A common sleep disturbance, sleep disordered breathing, is also known to vary by ethnicity, but little is known about other sleep problems that may be affected by racial background. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of sleep disturbances in community children and determine if racial differences exist.
Methods A detailed questionnaire related to sleep habits and sleep quality was mailed to parents of children enrolled in the community public school system. Children, aged 5 to 6 years of age, and who self-identified as Caucasian (C) or African American (AA) were eligible to participate.
Results 2000 questionnaires were eligible for analysis. Demographic data were as follows: 6 year olds, 1119 (56%); males, 1059 (53%); C, 1582 (79%). The average hours of nighttime sleep was 9.2 ± 1.4 hours. The parents of C children reported more sleep hours than their AA counterparts (C, 9.4 ± 1.3 hours vs. AA, 8.5 ± 1.6 hours). Only 180 (9%) of parents reported no concerns with sleep issues, but of the remaining parents, racial differences did exist. More C parents reported that their children willingly went to bed (C, 60% vs. AA, 48%, p < .001) and were easy to arouse in the morning (C, 59% vs. AA, 52%, p = .007) than parents of AA children. Parents of AA children felt their children talked more during sleep (C, 12% vs. AA 29%, p < .001), had a higher frequency of sleepwalking (C, 1.9% vs. AA, 3.8%, p = .03), more nightmares (C, 1.9% vs. AA, 7.0%, p < .001), snored more frequently (C, 25% vs. AA, 45%, p < .001), and exhibited daytime somnolence more often (C, 8.9% vs. AA 13.2%, p < .001).
Conclusion Racial differences do exist in sleep habits and sleep quality. This study suggests AA children are more at risk for sleep disturbances than their C counterparts.