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How does skin color affect my ability to sleep?

Researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU) had observed that more than half of the patients who came to their sleep clinic with sleep problems and with chronic pain were also deficient in Vitamin D. They noticed this cluster of symptoms appeared to occur more often in patients who were African American.

The LSU study involved 81 patients, all of whom had either sleep problems or musculoskeletal pain either in the day or the evening, or both. Sixty five percent of the patients in the study were white, and 35% were African-American. All of the patients in the study group were diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Nearly three-quarters had obstructive sleep apnea, while others suffered from insomnia, or restless leg syndrome. All patients were evaluated for excessive daytime sleepiness using the Epworth Sleep Scale, a standard measurement. Their levels of Vitamin D were measured using blood tests.

The results of the study support a strong correlation between excessive daytime sleepiness and Vitamin D. They also indicate that race is a factor in the relationship between Vitamin D and daytime sleepiness. But the results were in some ways surprising and indicate a complicated relationship, particularly where race is concerned.

Here’s an overview of the most important findings:
  • 65% of the study population was found to have a Vitamin D deficiency
  • The patients with greater skin pigmentation had higher average levels of daytime sleepiness and lower average levels of Vitamin D, compared to those with less skin pigmentation
  • African American patients made up 35% of the study population, but 55% of the group that were deficient in Vitamin D
  • Only 6% of the group without a Vitamin D deficiency were African-American
  • Among those with deficiencies of Vitamin D -- under 20 mg/mL as measured by a blood test -- there was no correlation between Vitamin D levels and daytime sleepiness. This is the opposite of what was expected based on prior research.
An exception to this was found among African-American patients in the study group. Among those African-American patients with Vitamin D deficiency, there was a direct correlation between levels of Vitamin D and daytime sleepiness. Among these patients, higher Vitamin D levels were associated with higher levels of daytime sleepiness -- the exact opposite of what was expected.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.