Social Support, Discrimination, and Sleep Quality in African American Adults

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Past literature demonstrates that poor sleep quality has adverse effects on mental and physical health, particularly for African Americans. Additionally, while stressors, such as discrimination, have been shown to negatively impact sleep, support from romantic partners or other in one's network may have an important stress-buffering effect. To test the hypotheses that 1) more experiences of discrimination predict poorer sleep quality and 2) spousal support acts as a buffer against the effects of discrimination on sleep quality above and beyond other sources of support, 73 African American couples completed and online survey, which assessed recent sleep habits, sources of support, and experiences of discrimination within the past week. Using multilevel modeling to account for the nesting of data within couples, we found that individuals who report more experiences of discrimination are more likely to experience poorer sleep quality. Additionally, we found that higher levels of partner support, but not other support, predicted improved sleep quality. Finally, no buffering effect of either source of support was detected. However, follow-up analyses revealed that support from either source can buffer the effect of discrimination on sleep duration. The buffering effect of partner support was such that the inverse association between discrimination and sleep duration was only present for individuals who reported that their partners were ambivalent, and not for those who reported supportive partners. The buffering effect of other support was such that the inverse association of discrimination and sleep duration was stronger for those who reported being less satisfied with the support they receive from their networks than for those who report being more satisfied. These findings are critical for developing our understanding of risk factors for poor sleep and the related adverse health. By improving our understanding of these relationships, we can inform future interventions that can mitigate risk of poor sleep quality and adverse health outcomes in African Americans.

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