Superwomen and Sleep: an Assessment of Black College Women Across the African Diaspora

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Background: Women and racial/ethnic minority groups in the U.S. report poor sleep health. While stress and alcohol use may contribute to sleep problems, few studies have examined the roles of stress and alcohol use on sleep among Black college women. Gender-racial ideology of Black womanhood may also play a role in sleep. This exploratory study sought to examine the relationships between stress, alcohol, ethnic-gender identity, and sleep. Method: Guided by the biopsychosocial model and intersectionality theory, a cross-sectional study design recruited undergraduate women (18–24 years) attending a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) who self-identified as Black (N = 110). Participants completed the Insomnia Severity Index, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Perceived Stress Scale, Alcohol Use Disorders Test, and Giscombe Superwoman Schema Questionnaire. Univariate and multiple linear regressions were conducted to examine independent and multiple effects of stress, alcohol, and ethnic-gender identity on insomnia and sleep quality. Results: Participants (mean age 19.4 years) represented diverse ethnic groups, 53% American, 25% African, and 20% Caribbean. Nearly 23% reported moderate to severe levels of insomnia. Scores from the Perceived Stress Scale, the Alcohol Use Disorders Test, and the Giscombe Superwoman Schema Questionnaire were independently associated with insomnia and sleep quality. In multivariate analyses, only perceived stress exhibited a significant association with insomnia and sleep quality. Conclusion: This exploratory study demonstrated that stress, excessive alcohol use, and ethnic-gender identity have relational impact on sleep health. Yet, stress may have greater importance and further research is needed to explore factors that mediated the relationship between stress and sleep.

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