News Release

Growing up in an unsafe neighborhood may impact adult sleep health

Study suggests improving safety for children could have long-term benefits

Meeting Announcement

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

DARIEN, IL – A recent study of Black women found that growing up in an unsafe neighborhood was associated with poorer sleep in adulthood.


A total of 1,611 Black women in Detroit, Michigan, who enrolled in the Study of Environment, Lifestyle and Fibroids reported their perceived childhood neighborhood safety at ages 5, 10 and 15 years. Participants also reported their sleep duration, quality, and insomnia symptoms.


Results show that those who perceived their neighborhood as unsafe versus safe at each age were more likely to frequently wake up feeling unrested as adults. Short sleep duration of less than seven hours and frequently waking up feeling unrested during adulthood were reported by approximately 60% of women, and 10% reported frequent insomnia symptoms. Perceived unsafe neighborhood at ages 5 and 15 years was associated with frequent insomnia symptoms and frequently waking up feeling unrested, respectively. Participants who perceived their neighborhood as unsafe at age 10 years had a marginally higher prevalence of both frequently waking up feeling unrested and frequent insomnia symptoms during adulthood.


“Due to structural racism and historical practices of redlining as well as contemporary residential segregation, Black/African American children are disproportionately overrepresented in neighborhoods characterized by concentrated poverty and being unsafe,” said lead author Symielle Gaston, who has a doctorate in epidemiology and is a research fellow with the National Institute of Environmental Health Science. “Our results suggest that intervening to help make a child’s neighborhood feel safe, a modifiable target in which both communities and policy makers can intercede, may help prevent other downstream risk factors, namely poor sleep health, before it develops and potentially negatively impacts both mental and physical health.”


Gaston added that while addressing neighborhood safety at any age is important, middle childhood may be an optimal time for safety and sleep interventions since relationships between perceived safety with adulthood sleep were most consistent. She hopes to continue this line of research using objective measures over the life course and in different geographic areas.


This study was funded by the Division of Intramural Research within NIEHS, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds designated for NIH research.


The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented June 7 during SLEEP 2022. SLEEP is the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.




Abstract Title: Perceived Childhood Neighborhood Safety and Sleep Health during Adulthood

Abstract ID: 0238
Poster Presentation Date: Tuesday, June 7, 5:15-7:15 p.m., Board 081
Presenter: Symielle Gaston, PhD, MPH


For a copy of the abstract or to arrange an interview with the study author or an AASM spokesperson, email


About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is advancing sleep care and enhancing sleep health to improve lives. The AASM has a combined membership of 11,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals (


About the Sleep Research Society

The Sleep Research Society is a professional membership society that advances sleep and circadian science. The SRS provides forums for the exchange of information, establishes and maintains standards of reporting and classifies data in the field of sleep research, and collaborates with other organizations to foster scientific investigation on sleep and its disorders. The SRS also publishes the peer-reviewed, scientific journals Sleep and Sleep Advances (



Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.