‘Time is racist’: Daylight Saving adversely affecting black people, according to CNN

Daylight Saving Time is another systemic stone tied to the necks of minorities, adversely affecting people of color compared to their white counterparts, according to CNN.

The structural racism inherent in the turning back of clocks in the fall and jumping forward in the spring “sheds light on lack of sleep’s disproportionate impact in communities of color,” the liberal network said in an article published on CNN Health.

“Growing evidence shows that lack of sleep and sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, remain more prevalent in Black, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino communities, and these inequities can have long-term detrimental implications for physical health, even raising the risk of certain chronic diseases,” Jacqueline Howard wrote.

Daylight Saving Time is designed to add an hour of sunlight to the end of the work day by springing forward in March and falling back in November but the process is unpopular with a majority of the population who find it more disruptive than helpful. Some in the medical field have called for abandoning the practice and instead creating a standard time that involves no seasonal shift.

“From a health standpoint, the bulk of evidence supports abolishing our current spring transition to daylight saving time and adopting permanent standard time,” said Dr. Beth Malow, professor of neurology and pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Sleep Division in Nashville. “Daylight saving time is associated with increased risks of sleep loss, circadian misalignment, and adverse health consequences.”

The increased attention to the negative health effects of transitioning each spring and fall prompted the Senate to pass the Sunshine Protection Act which will make Daylight Saving Time permanent. The bill must still pass the House and get signed off by President Joe Biden in order to go into effect in November 2023.

But CNN’s focus was not on the benefits or deficits of the practice for the country as a whole, Howard believes the bi-annual change is directly linked to systemic racism.

“As for the inequities seen in sleep health, it’s not that White adults don’t also experience a lack of sleep and its health consequences – but people of color appear to disproportionately experience them more, and that’s believed to be largely due to social systems in the United States,” the former senior science editor at The Huffington Post wrote.

Howard goes into the negative health effects of interrupted and truncated sleep patterns, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, impaired cognitive functions, and death, before citing a study on “How have racial and ethnic differences in self-reported sleep duration among US adults changed from 2004 to 2018,” published by Dr. César Caraballo-Cordovez and colleagues.

“Although there was a significant increase in the prevalence of insufficient sleep across all groups during the study period, the prevalence of short sleep increased 6.39 and 6.61 percentage points among Black and Hispanic or Latino adults, respectively, compared with 3.22 percentage points among White people,” Howard said, which may be attributed to social and environmental factors.

Housing conditions, noise pollution, light pollution, air pollution, stress from different sources, perceived racial discrimination and working conditions could be why healthy sleep levels may be less common among black adults than among white adults, Caraballo-Cordovez contended in the study.

Chandra Jackson, a researcher and epidemiologist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who studies racial and ethnic disparities in sleep and an author of the Caraballo-Cordovez study, believes the social and environmental factors are “persistent forms of structural racism… in which societies foster racial discrimination through mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, wages, benefits, credit, media, health care and criminal justice.”

“These policies and practices can produce disparities due to the maldistribution of health-promoting or harming resources across racial groups and can, in turn, reinforce discriminatory beliefs,” Jackson said. “That is, it is believed that discriminatory policies and practices across sectors of society create the physical and social conditions that make it more difficult for Black families to get optimal sleep and grow up healthy. Fortunately, these policies and practices are also modifiable.”

Jackson said the United States’ history of racism may have contributed to the nighttime shooting deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville in March 2020 and the shooting of George Floyd’s 4-year-old grandniece in Houston on New Year’s Day, claiming “systems of structural racism in the US can cultivate conditions that make such incidents more likely to happen in Black communities.”

But the scientist then admitted, “this would require research.”

Howard believes black communities will continue to be afflicted with poor sleep habits as long as “systemic racism” is left unchecked.

“Essentially anything that produces physical and psychological stress is a threat to sleep health, and these stressors tend to be more prevalent in Black communities,” she wrote.

The federal government’s Healthy People programs have made improving sleep a national objective for two consecutive years but that is not enough for Howard and her sources.

“The impact of strategies focused on improving sleep knowledge and habits – although important and necessary – may be limited if they do not address the persistent barriers that disproportionally prevent Black individuals from achieving and maintaining a healthy life,” Caraballo-Cordovez said.


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