Sleep Equity

What Is Sleep Equity?

Project Sleep is dedicated to raising awareness about sleep health, sleep equity, and sleep disorders. So what is sleep equity?

Sleep equity is the state in which everyone has an equal opportunity, based on their need, to obtain an amount and quality of sleep that promotes physical and mental well-being.

Equality vs. Equity

Equality means the state of being equal, and equity refers to the element of justice or fairness; it’s possible that “equal” treatment does not produce “equity” when people are living in very different conditions and circumstances. Applying this concept to sleep means it’s not enough to make sure everyone is educated about the importance of healthy sleep. We need to understand and address additional barriers to healthy sleep for many groups of people, particularly those in minoritized communities.

When conditions and circumstances are very different, equal treatment does not necessarily produce equitable outcomes.

At a basic human rights level, we want to make healthy sleep available equally for all people. If we can target and improve sleep, we could potentially reduce this health burden for individuals.” 

Dr. Dayna Johnson, Everyday Health

What Are Sleep Disparities?

People from minoritized groups are at higher risk for insufficient, poor-quality sleep.

Sleep disparities are differences in sleep health, divided along group lines, which do not reflect underlying biological causes but social ones. Due to current and historical injustices that give rise to social, economic, and environmental inequalities, people from BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, and other minoritized communities are more likely to get insufficient, poor quality sleep. Some research shows that people from these groups are also:

  • more likely to have sleep disorders
  • less likely to receive screening for sleep health issues
  • more likely to be undiagnosed and untreated for sleep disorders

Dr. Michael Grandner, a white man with short, light colored hair wearing a muted teal colored polo shirt.

Sleep isn’t just a biological process, it’s a process that occurs in context of the world.

– Dr. Michael Grandner

Project Sleep urgently emphasizes the role of sleep disparities as a direct contributor to overall health disparities.

Since sleep plays important roles in cardiovascular function, metabolism, immunity, mental health, and brain function, this sleep disparity creates a situation where many of our community members are systematically set up for worse overall health outcomes.

Project Sleep joins many researchers and sleep health advocates in urgently emphasizing the role of sleep disparities as a direct contributor to overall health disparities.

Working Toward Sleep Equity

Sleep disparities stem from complex, entrenched social problems including racism and all its downstream effects, homophobia and transphobia, disability stigma, poverty, and inequitable access to healthcare.

With these seemingly overwhelming forces at work, it can be tough to see how or where individual efforts have an impact. No one person can fix everything, but remember, change begins in each of us. Our community is powerful and every action for sleep equity counts!

What Can I Do?

Here are some actionable suggestions for promoting sleep equity in your community:


Ask all patients about their sleep, screen for sleep disorders, and follow up on treatment for sleep disorders.


Provide living wages, health benefits, and family leave to all employees, and promote sleep and rest as fundamental to workers’ well-being and productivity.


Include BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, and other minoritized populations in sleep research, and mentor students from these communities.

Policy Makers

Support living wages, accessible healthcare and housing, extended family leave, equitable education, and funding for sleep disparities research.

Community Leaders

Talk with community members about the importance of sleep health and promote a culture that honors rest and recuperation.

Educators & School Staff

Learn about sleep disparities and sleep disorders, and help identify underlying causes when a student is struggling to stay awake, focus, or keep up with schoolwork.

Content Creators

Use your platform to amplify the voices of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, and other people affected by sleep and health disparities.


Know where your elected officials and candidates stand on civil rights, employment, housing, and healthcare policies and work to elect leaders who prioritize health equity.

People with Sleep Disorders

Share your story to raise awareness and reduce stigma and delays to diagnosis (join Rising Voices!).

People not directly impacted by stigma & discrimination

Learn about anti-racism and read, watch, follow, and listen to BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, neurodivergent, and other people whose identities and experiences are different from your own. Start here.

What Project Sleep is Doing

Project Sleep has taken steps forward, but more must and will be done. We will continue to take action and hold ourselves accountable in advocating for sleep health equity, and advancing diversity and inclusion within our organization and across the sleep space. We pledge to:

Highlight research focused on sleep and health disparities in BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, and other minoritized communities

Promote understanding of the sleep health impacts of intersectionality and multiple layers of minoritization

Advocate for more funding for sleep disparities research

Engage with the sleep community, policy makers, researchers, and clinicians to ensure our efforts have positive and meaningful impacts for sleep equity

Sleep Health Disparities Initiative

Project Sleep’s Sleep Health Disparities Initiative will continue to elevate important underrepresented voices in our community. Our 2023 efforts include two main areas of activity:

Focus Groups

to understand barriers and improve sleep disorders awareness, diagnosis, and treatment in Black American communities.


to promote awareness and encourage dialogue around sleep equity & sleep disparities while lifting up the voices of our community.

Voices of the Sleep Community

Looking Ahead

Discussions are underway to advance collaborations with Congressional leaders, researchers, patient advocates, and community leaders. If you’d like to get involved in future efforts to advance sleep equity, diversity, and inclusion, please sign up here.

Recent Sleep Equity and Sleep Disparities News

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