This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Emotion Regulation and Sleep among Black and White College Students




Homandberg, Lydia

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


Emotion regulation has been associated with a range of health outcomes including cardiovascular activation, elevated inflammation, and psychopathy. However, few studies have examined the extent to which specific regulatory strategies may influence sleep, and even fewer have considered the role of race and ethnicity. This is surprising given past research on racial/ethnic differences in the utilization of specific emotion regulation strategies as well as their impact have been studied. In the current study, we investigate differences in emotion regulation strategies and its relations with sleep quality and duration between Black/African American (AA) and White/European American (EA) college students. Participants were 263 undergraduate students from a large university in the Southeastern United States (mean age at baseline = 19.21, SD = 1.01; 53% female; 52% Black; 48% White). Sleep quality (waking after sleep onset [WASO], and percent sleep) and sleep duration (sleep minutes) were measured through wrist actigraphy. Expressive suppression, the inhibition of ongoing emotionally expressive behavior, and cognitive reappraisal, the modification of cognitions or behaviors before the onset of an emotional response, were measured with the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire. Black students reported higher reappraisal than White students. The pattern of associations between emotion regulation and sleep varied as a function of race/ethnicity. Expressive suppression was associated with decreases in sleep quality (increases in WASO and decreases in percent sleep) among Black, but not White students. Expressive reappraisal was associated with decreased WASO and increases in sleep percentage for White, but not Black students. No associations were evident for the sleep time measure. This pattern of associations persisted after adjusting for demographic and health behaviors covariates. Results indicate that associations between emotion regulation and sleep and the level of emotion regulation vary as a function of race/ethnicity. The covariates included in the model did not moderate the associations between emotion regulation and sleep. Future directions should include examining race differences in emotion regulation in multiple contexts across the life span. Additionally, the variables that moderate these associations should be explicated in future research.