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Volume 13 No. 11
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Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

Differences in Sleep Patterns and Problems by Race in a Clinical Sample of Black and White Preschoolers

Ariel A. Williamson, PhD1,2; Sonia L. Rubens, PhD3; Kristina E. Patrick, PhD4; Melisa Moore, PhD1; Jodi A. Mindell, PhD1,5
1Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 2University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 3Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California; 4Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; 5Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Study Objectives:

Community-based research indicates that Black preschoolers tend to have more bedtime difficulties and are at higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) compared to White preschoolers. This study examined differences in sleep patterns and problems by race among a clinical sample of Black and White preschoolers at an outpatient sleep clinic.


Data were collected from electronic medical records for 125 children ages 2–5 years (mean = 3.37 years, 64.0% White, 36.0% Black; 59.2% male) presenting at a pediatric sleep clinic in an academic medical center. Neighborhood income data were based on ZIP codes entered into the United States Census Bureau's American Fact Finder.


Black patients (51.1%) were significantly more likely than White patients (20.0%) to bed-share with a caregiver (χ2 = 12.99, P ≤ .001). There were no other significant differences in presenting sleep patterns (bed/wake times, sleep onset latency, naps, night awakenings, or sleep opportunity). Logistic regressions showed that White patients were more likely to present with difficulty falling/staying asleep and receive an insomnia diagnosis, and Black patients were more likely to present with OSA-related concerns and receive a diagnosis of suspected OSA, even when controlling for relevant sociodemographic covariates.


In contrast to community-based research, Black and White children showed similar sleep patterns. However, there were differences by race in referral questions and diagnoses. Findings suggest the need to consider caregiver perceptions and other sociocultural factors that may contribute to differential rates of presentation for sleep services, as well as potential health disparities in this regard.


Williamson AA, Rubens SL, Patrick KE, Moore M, Mindell JA. Differences in sleep patterns and problems by race in a clinical sample of black and white preschoolers. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(11):1281–1288.

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