Discrimination and Sleep Difficulties during Adolescence: The Mediating Roles of Loneliness and Perceived Stress

Abstract

Irregular and insufficient sleep place youth at risk for adverse psychological and physical health outcomes. Recent research indicates that discrimination constitutes a type of stressor that interferes with adolescent sleep; however, the mechanisms through which discrimination affects sleep are not well understood. This study examined whether ethnic and non-ethnic (i.e., gender, age, and height/weight) discrimination were associated with adolescents’ sleep duration, variability, and quality, and whether loneliness and perceived stress mediated these associations. An ethnically-diverse sample (42% Latino, 29% European American, 23% Asian) of adolescents (N = 316; M age = 16.40 years, 57% girls) reported on their experiences of discrimination, perceived stress, and loneliness. Sleep duration and variability were assessed by actigraphy and sleep quality through self-reports. Ethnic discrimination was related to shorter sleep duration and both ethnic and non-ethnic discrimination were associated with worse sleep quality. Loneliness and perceived stress partially mediated the relation between discrimination and sleep quality. Discriminatory experiences can heighten feelings of loneliness and stress, which, in turn, may contribute to diminished sleep quality during adolescence.

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Funding

This research was supported by NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) UCLA CTSI (UL1TR001881) and funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01-HD062547), the UCLA California Center for Population Research (P2C-HD041022), the UCLA Older Americans Independence Center (P30-AG028748), and the USC/UCLA Center for Biodemography and Population Health (P30-AG017265).

Authors' Contributions

A.M. conceived of the idea for the manuscript, performed statistical analyses and drafted the manuscript; K.T. performed statistical analyses and drafted the manuscript; V.H. participated in the interpretation of the data and helped to revise the manuscript; H.M. assisted in the coordination of the study and helped to revise the manuscript; and A.F. conceived of the study, participated in the design and coordination of the study, participated in the interpretation of the data and helped to edit the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Angelina Majeno.

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Majeno, A., Tsai, K.M., Huynh, V.W. et al. Discrimination and Sleep Difficulties during Adolescence: The Mediating Roles of Loneliness and Perceived Stress. J Youth Adolescence 47, 135–147 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0755-8

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Keywords

  • Ethnic discrimination
  • Adolescents
  • Sleep
  • Loneliness
  • Non-ethnic discrimination
  • Stress