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World Sleep Day 2024: What is Sleep Equity?

World Sleep Day 2024: What is Sleep Equity?

Happy World Sleep Day from Happsy!

We may be biased on the subject, but we believe that sleep is the cornerstone of human health. It’s essential for our physical, mental and emotional well-being – essentially, every aspect of being. Yet despite its critical role, millions globally find a good night's rest to be an elusive luxury. 

The reasons behind these sleep challenges are manifold, yet they disproportionately impact specific communities, including people of color, unhoused individuals, those living in poverty and the LGBTQ+ community. 

Recognizing the urgent need to address this disparity, World Sleep Day this year turns the spotlight on the pressing issue of sleep inequity, inviting a global conversation on how to ensure everyone can enjoy the restorative power of sleep.

What is sleep equity?

Woman sleeping on her side in a clean, healthy environmentWoman sleeping on her side in a clean, healthy environment

The theme of this year’s World Sleep Day is Sleep Equity for Global Health. Sleep equity refers to the principle that all individuals, irrespective of their background or socio-economic status, should have the opportunity to achieve optimal sleep health. This includes: 

  • Sufficient duration per age-specific recommendations
  • Good quality, uninterrupted sleep cycles
  • Appropriate timing in sync with one's natural circadian rhythm
  • Regular sleep and wake patterns
  • Absence or management of sleep disorders
  • Feeling rested overall

Sleep equity acknowledges the existence of sleep disparities across different communities and seeks to understand and dismantle the barriers that prevent equitable access to quality sleep. 

By striving for sleep equity, we aim to create a world where sleep is not a privilege but a universally accessible foundation of health.

Why sleep is a human right

The concept of sleep as a human right is grounded in the undeniable fact that adequate rest is essential for survival, akin to food, water, and shelter. Compromised sleep quality and duration are linked to numerous health issues, including increased risks of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Mental health disorders

Recognizing sleep as a fundamental human right is a call to action to address and prioritize sleep equity as part of broader health and social equity initiatives.

Sleep disparities in the U.S.

In the United States, racial inequality of sleep is a glaring issue, with significant disparities in sleep quality and duration observed among different racial and ethnic groups. 

Studies indicate that people of color, particularly Black Americans, are more likely to report shorter sleep durations and poorer sleep quality compared to their white counterparts. 

These disparities are not isolated phenomena but are reflective of broader systemic inequalities, including access to healthcare, safe and comfortable living environments, and economic stability.

Factors that may contribute

Several factors contribute to sleep inequity, including environmental, economic and social determinants. 

For unhoused individuals, the absence of a safe and stable place to sleep severely impacts sleep quality. Economic hardships can lead to job schedules that conflict with natural sleep patterns, while neighborhoods with higher levels of noise and light pollution offer less conducive sleep environments. 

Additionally, stress and mental health challenges disproportionately affecting marginalized communities can further exacerbate sleep difficulties.

4 Ways to support sleep equity for all

Addressing sleep equity requires a multi-faceted approach that tackles the root causes of sleep disparities. Here are some ways to support sleep equity for all.

Young man asleep at the table with his schoolworkYoung man asleep at the table with his schoolwork

Advocate for policy change

Engagement in policy advocacy is crucial for addressing the structural barriers to sleep equity. This involves pushing for changes at both local and national levels that can positively impact the socio-economic determinants of sleep, such as: 

  • Legislation for affordable housing
  • Healthcare reform
  • Environmental justice

Advocacy efforts can also focus on workplace policies that respect workers' rights to rest, such as fair work hours and breaks, and access to paid leave.

Promote sleep education

Raising awareness about the importance of sleep and how to achieve better sleep hygiene is a powerful tool in the fight for sleep equity – and a big part of what we do here on the Happsy blog

Educational programs tailored to communities facing sleep disparities can provide practical tips on: 

  • Improving sleep environments
  • Establishing consistent sleep routines
  • Managing stress
  • Keeping toxins out of sleep spaces 

Collaborations with healthcare providers, schools and community organizations can also amplify the reach and impact of these educational efforts.

A Happsy mattress delivered at a Humble Design projectA Happsy mattress delivered at a Humble Design project

Support community initiatives

Community-based initiatives play a pivotal role in supporting individuals directly affected by sleep inequity. This could include the development of safe and quiet spaces in community centers for people to rest, programs offering mental health support and stress reduction techniques, providing access to affordable sleep aids and resources, and more.

Humble Design is an organization we partner with here at Happsy that furnishes new homes for people emerging from homelessness. (Learn how to get involved here!) 

Supporting non-profits like Humble Design through volunteering, donations or partnerships can enhance their capacity to make a tangible difference in people's lives.

Practice empathy and understanding

At the heart of the movement for sleep equity is a fundamental respect for the diverse experiences and challenges faced by individuals across different communities. 

Practicing empathy involves listening to and acknowledging these experiences without judgment, striving to understand the complex interplay of factors that contribute to sleep inequity. 

Through empathetic engagement, we can build stronger connections and collaborations that empower all individuals to achieve better sleep health.

The bottom line

As we observe World Sleep Day, the call to action for sleep equity is louder and clearer than ever. 

Sleep is not merely a personal health issue but a societal one that intersects with various facets of equity and justice. By committing to understanding and addressing the disparities that contribute to sleep inequity, we can take meaningful steps towards a future where restful sleep is not a luxury, but a fundamental right accessible to all. 

Be a catalyst for change this World Sleep Day! Let’s build a world where everyone can say goodnight to inequality and wake up to a healthier, more equitable tomorrow.

Learn more about how Happsy and Humble Design are changing lives.

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