NIH – Mechanisms and Consequences of Sleep Disparities in the U.S. (R01, R21)

April 21, 2017 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The description below was taken from the R01 version of this FOA:

The purpose of this initiative is to promote research to understand the underlying mechanisms contributing to sleep deficiencies among race and ethnic minorities and other health disparity populations and how sleep deficiencies may lead to disparities in health outcomes. For the purposes of this initiative, sleep deficiencies are defined as insufficient sleep duration, poor sleep quality, irregular timing of sleep, and sleep/circadian disorders. In addition, research on quality of sleep and excess sleep and their health consequences is of interest for this initiative.


Health disparities have been shown to be caused by multiple and overlapping contributing factors (i.e., cultural, biological, behavioral, environmental, and societal).  Few studies have investigated factors associated with sleep deficiencies in racial/ethnic minority populations. Circadian rhythm disruptions and disorders are likely to be linked to sociocultural and environmental factors, such as occupational shift work, economic adversity, financial insecurity, neighborhood deprivation, suboptimal housing exposure to allergens, noisy and crowded sleeping environment), urban residence, and residential segregation. Those with low SES have fewer psychosocial, economic, and environmental resources that promote adequate sleep or the prompt resolution of sleep problems. While some studies have found associations between sleep deficiencies and higher levels of chronic and major life stressors, and discrimination, there is a paucity of research investigating the underlying factors and potential causal mechanisms associated with sleep disparities in racial/ ethnic minority and low SES populations.

Sleep deficiencies have been associated with a variety of poor health outcomes. Shorter sleep duration is associated with increased risk of hypertension, stroke, diabetes, liver disease, cancer, and obesity. Studies have shown that short sleepers are more likely to be obese than those reporting =7 hours of sleep. Mental health issues such as depression and suicide are also associated with sleep deficiencies.

Racial/ethnic minorities are more likely than Whites to have persistent, severe, and under-diagnosed sleep disorders. Some cultural differences have been noted for the way in which sleep deficiencies are reported by persons from different populations, thus the level of disparity for sleep is speculated to be underestimated. While the majority of research has focused on describing differences in sleep across racial/ethnic populations and SES status, the underlying factors and the mechanisms contributing to disparities in healthy sleep are not well understood. More research is needed to explore links between social determinants of health and other factors that may cause sleep deficiencies and health disparities.

Research Objectives:

The overall objective of this initiative to support research to 1) understand the underlying social, cultural, environmental or biological factors contributing to sleep deficiencies among minority and health disparity populations and 2) how sleep deficiencies may lead to disparities in health outcomes.

In addition, research on how quality of sleep and excess sleep affect health and how differences in sleep quality may lead to health disparities, is of interest.

Many potential individual, contextual and structural factors influence health disparities; therefore, this initiative invites applications that include multidisciplinary research to understand the interplay of multiple factors and mechanisms that explain sleep disparities. Successful projects will examine etiology of disparities in sleep deficiencies through a socioecological framework using multi-level determinants including individual, family/household, community, built environment, and healthcare factors. Studies for this initiative may include multi-disciplinary translational, behavioral, or epidemiological, or health services projects. In addition, projects can involve primary and/or secondary data collection and analysis. Because the goal of this initiative is to better understand the mechanisms of documented sleep disparities, studies whose sole purpose is to assess the incidence/prevalence of sleep deficiencies in specific populations or subpopulations are not targeted for support under this FOA.

Projects should include a focus on one or more NIH-designated health disparity populations (HD populations) in the United States, which include Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, sexual and gender minorities and underserved rural populations.

Projects are encouraged to involve collaborations among relevant stakeholders in U.S. health disparity population groups, such as researchers, community organizations, clinicians, public health organizations, consumer advocacy groups, and faith-based organizations.  As appropriate for the research questions posed, inclusion of key community members in the conceptualization, planning and implementation of the research is encouraged (but not required) to generate better-informed hypotheses and enhance the translation of the research results into practice.

Specific Areas of Research Interest

Research topics of specific interest include but are not limited to:

  • Understanding how multiple determinants (i.e., social, environmental, biological/genetic, psychosocial, economic, and health care) contribute to sleep disparities in health disparity (HD) populations.
  • Investigating how multi-levels, e.g., individual, family/household, community, built environment contribute to disparities in sleep deficiencies.
  • Understanding the impact of sleep deficiencies across the life-course in HD populations, including whether sleep deficiencies during sensitive developmental periods impact susceptibility in later stages as well as modifiability over the life-course.
  • Investigating how sleep deficiencies influence risk of chronic disease prevalence, morbidity and mortality in HD populations.
  • Understanding of how sleep attitudes, behaviors, and practices among HD populations, including self-management strategies contribute to sleep deficiencies.
  • Investigating the mechanisms through which sociocultural and environmental determinants of health contribute to disparities in circadian rhythm disruption. The differences in underlying circadian physiology and how these circadian disruptions directly affect various health outcomes in health disparity populations.
  • Understanding whether and how discrimination reported by HD population contributes to sleep disparities, as well as mechanisms on how this influences biological systems and pathogenesis that leads to health disparities.
  • Investigating the role of protective and resilience factors among HD populations for healthy sleep.
  • Examination of identification, diagnosis, and treatment/management of sleep deficiencies among health disparity populations by clinicians and other healthcare professionals and whether these contribute to disparities in sleep deficiencies.
  • Investigating patient, clinician, and system/policy-level factors that predict receipt and treatment outcomes among HD populations for sleep deficiencies.

Deadlines:  July 11, 2017, July 11, 2018, July 11, 2019; letters of intent are due 30 days prior to the deadline


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities