Boston researchers explore how nighttime gunshots affect sleep


MGH researchers found that almost 75% of all gunshots fired across six major cities were at nighttime.

Night Time Police Violent Crime Intervention. Police Vehicles with Flashing Lights.

Gunshots that keep you and your neighbors awake at night could have long term effects on sleep and health that local researchers say go unrecognized, part of the broader public health threat that is gun violence.

A new study from Mass General Brigham researchers looked into the timing and locations of more than 72,000 gunshots in Baltimore, Boston, Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia, and Portland, Oregon from 2015 to 2021. 

More than 50,000 of those gunshots occurred at night, especially on Saturday and Sunday nights. The study found there are about 12.5 million instances of a gunshot affecting someone’s night across the six cities.

“A nighttime gunshot likely disrupts the sleep of nearby community residents due to the sheer sound of the shot, which is then followed by a cacophony of sirens from police vehicles and ambulances,” study author Rebecca Robbins said in a statement. “The findings from our study shed light on this potentially significant and underexplored social determinant of sleep and population health.”

The study also identified low-income communities as disproportionately affected by nighttime gunshot noise. While the study didn’t measure sleep disruption itself, it lays the groundwork to address sleep and health affects in communities due to gun violence.

“We have been able to advance our understanding of the impacts that gunshots have on communities and inform this critical national conversation,” Robbins said. “Conversations about guns often focus on the statistics on gun-related deaths, but our work draws attention to some of the less discussed impacts of gun violence.”

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