Sleep Equity for Global Health – World Sleep Day 2024

This year’s theme for World Sleep Day is Sleep Equity for Global Health. But what does it actually mean? In this short post I explain my take on it.

For me, Sleep Equity for Global Health refers to the belief or concept of everyone, regardless of background or circumstance, having an equal opportunity to achieve a healthy night’s sleep. This means every human being as access to the resources, knowledge, and environment necessary for sufficient and good quality sleep.

Let’s look at each of the slogan’s key components:

  • Sleep health: This refers to the quality and quantity of sleep needed for optimal physical and mental well-being.
  • Equity: This emphasises fairness and justice. In the context of sleep, it means everyone deserves the opportunity for good, healthy sleep, not just those with privilege or resources.
  • Global health: This acknowledges the issue exists worldwide and needs to be addressed on a broad scale. Every human being needs and has a right to good health. Healthy sleep is part of this; it is crucial for physical and mental well-being. 

Here’s a quick reminder why sleep equity is important for everyone

Studies show sleep deprivation has various negative consequences on health, including:

  • Increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Impaired cognitive function, memory, and learning.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

But, there are challenges to achieving sleep equity. (I think these are different from choosing not to make sleep a priority despite knowing how much sleep matters – an example of wilful blindness.) 

Several factors can hinder sleep equity around the world:

The list of factors below is by no means an exhaustive one but it is a good start to help us all think about what we can do to improve sleep equity.

  • Poverty: Limited access to proper bedding, safe and quiet sleeping spaces, and reliable electricity for light control can all disrupt sleep.
  • Work schedules: Shift work, long working hours, and unstable work environments can make it difficult to maintain a consistent and sleep-inclusive schedule.
  • Lack of education: Not everyone understands the importance of sleep and healthy sleep habits or how to create a sleep-conducive environment and lifestyle.
  • Environmental factors: Pollution, noise, and extreme temperatures can disrupt sleep patterns. And so can light at night! 
  • Social and cultural factors: Certain cultures may prioritise productivity over sleep or have social norms that interfere with sleep, like the glorification of busyness and productivity (“sleep is for whimps”), late-night socialising.

How much control an individual has over each of these factors will vary of course. But I do believe we all can do something to achieve sleep equity and thus improve the health of everyone.  

Here are some ways to address these challenges and improve sleep equity:

For me, ‘achieving’ sleep equity requires a societal effort, it is not the sole task of the individual. And I think it starts with understanding why sleep (and this always includes circadian health too by the way) matters.

  • Raising awareness: Public health campaigns can educate people (i.e. individuals, employers/ leaders, regulators) about the importance of sleep and how to improve it.
  • Policy changes: Regulations on working hours, light pollution, and noise control can create a more sleep-friendly environment and lifestyle.
  • Housing initiatives and neighbourhood development: Ensuring access to well-equipped housing and an sleep-friendly outdoor environment can improve sleep quality.
  • Community programmes: Educational workshops and support groups can empower individuals to learn and develop healthy sleep habits that work for them.

Overall, sleep equity is a complex issue with significant implications for global health. By addressing the social, economic, and environmental barriers to good sleep, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to experience the benefits of a good night’s rest. And one benefit, I truly believe, is a more connected and empathic society. After all, sleep is the social glue that holds society together.

I hope my post has helped to bring the sentiment of this year’s powerful slogan to life, writing it has certainly helped me 🙂

And as always, if you want help with looking after your sleep, email or book an initial call with me. Together we’ll work out what changes to make to improve your sleep so that you feel good.


Dr Kat


Sleep Equity for Global Health