In September 2011, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) held a two-day workshop to discuss and identify opportunities for research to reduce disparities in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality coupled to sleep health. The workshop also aimed to advance the scientific understanding of the role of sleep in realizing optimal health outcomes. An executive summary with recommendations from the workshop was recently posted on the NHLBI website.

Recommendations for future research included:

  • Advance epidemiology and clinical research to achieve a more complete understanding of disparities in domains of sleep health (i.e. prevalence and severity of sleep apnea, habitual sleep duration, sleep timing and regularity, insomnia complaints) and across population subgroups (i.e. racial/ethnic, socioeconomic position, gender) for which cardiovascular and metabolic health disparities exist.
  • Develop study designs and analytical approaches to explain and predict multilevel and lifecourse determinants of sleep health (i.e. environmental, biological/genetic, psychosocial, societal, political/economic) and to elucidate the sleep-related causes of cardiovascular and metabolic health disparities across the age spectrum.
  • Determine the contribution of sleep impairment (sleep apnea, insufficient sleep duration, irregular sleep schedules, insomnia complaints) to unexplained disparities in cardiovascular and metabolic risk and disease outcomes, by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic position, gender, and age.
  • Develop study designs, data sampling and collection tools, and analytical approaches to optimize our understanding of mediating and moderating factors, and feedback mechanisms coupling sleep to cardiovascular and metabolic health disparities.
  • Advance research to understand barriers (i.e. person, provider, system) to access to care, medical diagnosis, and treatment of sleep disorders in diverse population groups. Develop and test multi-level interventions (including sleep health education in diverse communities) to reduce disparities in sleep health that will impact our ability to improve disparities in cardiovascular and metabolic risk/disease.
  • Create opportunities to integrate sleep and health disparity science by strategically utilizing resources (i.e. existing or anticipated cohorts), exchanging scientific data and ideas (i.e. cross-over into scientific meetings), and develop multi-disciplinary investigator-initiated grant applications.
  • Enhance the diversity and foster career development of young investigators involved in sleep and health disparities science.

Read the full executive summary at the NHLBI website.