Racial/ethnic differences in sleep disturbances: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

Xiaoli Chen*, Rui Wang, Phyllis Zee, Pamela L. Lutsey, Sogol Javaheri, Carmela Alcántara, Chandra L. Jackson, Michelle A. Williams, Susan Redline

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

583 Scopus citations


Objectives: There is limited research on racial/ethnic variation in sleep disturbances. This study aimed to quantify the distributions of objectively measured sleep disordered breathing (SDB), short sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and self-reported sleep disturbances (e.g., insomnia) across racial/ethnic groups. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Six US communities. Participants: Racially/ethnically diverse men and women aged 54-93 y in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Sleep Cohort (n = 2,230). Interventions: N/A. Measurements and Results: Information from polysomnography-measured SDB, actigraphy-measured sleep duration and quality, and selfreported daytime sleepiness were obtained between 2010 and 2013. Overall, 15.0% of individuals had severe SDB (apnea-hypopnea index [AHI] ≥ 30); 30.9% short sleep duration (< 6 h); 6.5% poor sleep quality (sleep efficiency < 85%); and 13.9% had daytime sleepiness. Compared with Whites, Blacks had higher odds of sleep apnea syndrome (AHI ≥ 5 plus sleepiness) (sex-, age-, and study site-adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.78, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.20, 2.63), short sleep (OR = 4.95, 95% CI: 3.56, 6.90), poor sleep quality (OR = 1.57, 95% CI: 1.00, 2.48), and daytime sleepiness (OR = 1.89, 95% CI: 1.38, 2.60). Hispanics and Chinese had higher odds of SDB and short sleep than Whites. Among nonobese individuals, Chinese had the highest odds of SDB compared to Whites. Only 7.4% to 16.2% of individuals with an AHI ≥ 15 reported a prior diagnosis of sleep apnea. Conclusions: Sleep disturbances are prevalent among middle-aged and older adults, and vary by race/ethnicity, sex, and obesity status. The high prevalence of sleep disturbances and undiagnosed sleep apnea among racial/ethnic minorities may contribute to health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-888
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Apnea-hypopnea index
  • Body mass index
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Obesity
  • Polysomnography
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Sleep disordered breathing
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Sleep duration
  • Sleep quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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