NIH Funds $772,060 Study on How Well Mexican-Americans on Border Sleep

By Melanie Arter | July 19, 2018 | 10:35am EDT

( – The University of Arizona received $772,060 in taxpayer funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in fiscal year 2018 to study the “sleep health” of Mexican-Americans on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The primary goal of this study is to assess sleep health among Mexican-Americans at the US/Mexico border, characterize relationships with cardiometabolic disease risk, and investigate the role of social-environmental factors including acculturation, stress, socioeconomics, and health behaviors,” the grant description stated.

“Short sleep duration, insomnia disorder, and sleep apnea are highly prevalent in the population. These conditions are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, daytime functioning problems, and poor mental health,” it stated.

The study’s researcher noted that there are disparities in sleep health in racial and ethnic minorities, including Mexican-Americans. Furthermore, “social-environmental factors at the US-Mexico border may play an important role in sleep health disparities.”

According to the grant abstract, Mexican-Americans are “at increased risk of sleep disturbances.”

“This is alarming, since this group is also at increased risk for many of the adverse cardiometabolic and functional outcomes linked to sleep disturbances. These associations may be influenced by economic hardship, psychosocial stress, unhealthy behaviors (diet, exercise, alcohol, and smoking), and acculturation – the degree to which an individual adopts (in this case) traditional Mexican versus American culture,” it stated.

“The first goal of this project is to examine sleep duration, insomnia symptoms, and sleep apnea severity among Mexican-Americans and examine the role of these social-behavioral factors in this relationship. Second, this study aims to examine the role of sleep and cardiometabolic disease risk in this population and explore the role of acculturation, psychosocial stress, economic hardship, and/or unhealthy behaviors in these associations,” the grant description stated.

“This project will not only allow for increased understanding of the complex relationship among sleep, health, and social-environmental pressures, but through a community partnership it can maximize our ability to reduce these disparities,” the grant description stated.

“To accomplish this, this project will partner with the Mariposa Community Health Center, the federally qualified clinic in the Nogales, AZ area. Nogales is a small city on the US/Mexico border that is an ideal location for studying non-urban Mexican- Americans, as it is made up of 83% Hispanics/Latinos, 33% immigrants, and 77% who primarily speak Spanish at home,” the NIH abstract stated.

Researchers plan to recruit 900 Mexican-Americans and 200 Non-Hispanic Whites for the study and will complete a battery of tests during a clinic visit, including questionnaires, interviews, “a 1-night home sleep apnea assessment, a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure recording, and a 2-week home monitoring period with sleep diary and actigraphy.”

The project leader, Michael Grandner, told that he has “worked quite a bit on the issue of sleep health disparities, and the role of these in disparities in other domains of health.”

“This stems back to the idea that (1) sleep is important for overall health, (2) the factors in our lives that dictate our sleep are often not biological, and (3) if those factors negatively impact sleep and that causes poorer health, then understanding how all of that fits together can not only help people sleep better, but also be in better health and be better able to succeed,” he said.

“And many people from different types of minority groups experience sleep problems. Understanding how the causes of these sleep problems could be modifiable might help us improve sleep and then improve health.,” Gardner said.

When asked why he chose to specifically focus on Mexican-Americans on the border, Gardner said, “This population is unique in that Mexican-Americans represent a very large group of Americans that are often under-served by these research efforts. I hope to gain a better understanding of how all of these variables fit together in this community and leverage the unique strengths and address the unique problems that this group faces.”

“In short, I think that this is one way that I can do some good for the community, using the tools that I have,” he added.

When asked to give some examples of socio-environmental factors that might impact sleep health, Gardner said, “there are many.”

“At the individual level, you have beliefs, attitudes, genetics, choices, health, psychology, etc. At the social level, you have home, work, school, family, neighborhood, religion, culture, socioeconomics, ethnicity, racial group, etc. At the societal level you have public policy, globalization, technology, 24/7 society, the environment, etc.,” he said.


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