Sleep disparity, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic position

Sleep Med. 2016 Feb;18:7-18. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.01.020. Epub 2015 Feb 28.


Sleep represents a set of biological functions necessary for the maintenance of life. Performing these functions, though, requires that an individual engage in behaviors, which are affected by social and environmental factors. Race/ethnicity and socioeconomic position represent categories of factors that likely play a role in the experience of sleep in the community. Previous studies have suggested that racial/ethnic minorities and the socioeconomically disadvantaged may be more likely to experience sleep patterns that are associated with adverse health outcomes. It is possible that disparities in sleep represent a pathway by which larger disparities in health emerge. This review (1) contextualizes the concept of race/ethnicity in biomedical research, (2) summarizes previous studies that describe patterns of sleep attainment across race/ethnicity groups, (3) discusses several pathways by which race/ethnicity may be associated with sleep, (4) introduces the potential role of socioeconomic position in the patterning of sleep, and (5) proposes future research directions to address this issue.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Health disparities; Race/ethnicity; Sleep; Sleep duration; Socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Racial Groups*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / ethnology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*