July 16 | 2018

Environmental Determinants of Insufficient Sleep and Sleep Disorders: Implications for Population Health.

Johnson DA, Billings ME, Hale L.

Curr Epidemiol Rep. 2018 Jun;5(2):61-69. DOI:10.1007/s40471-018-0139-y .



Sleep is important for overall health and well-being. Insufficient sleep and sleep disorders are highly prevalent among adults and children and therefore a public health burden, particularly because poor sleep is associated with adverse health outcomes. Emerging evidence has demonstrated that environmental factors at the household- and neighborhood-level can alter healthy sleep. This paper will (1) review recent literature on the environmental determinants of sleep among adults as well as children and adolescents; and (2) discuss the opportunities and challenges for advancing research on the environment and sleep.


Epidemiologic research has shown that social features of environments, family, social cohesion, safety, noise, and neighborhood disorder can shape and/or impact sleep patterns; and physical features such as light, noise, traffic, pollution, and walkability can also influence sleep and is related to sleep disorders among adults and children. Prior research has mainly measured one aspect of the environment, relied on self-reported sleep, which does not correlate well with objective measures, and investigated cross-sectional associations. Although most studies are conducted among non-Hispanic white populations, there is growing evidence that indicates that minority populations are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the environment on insufficient sleep and sleep disorders.


There is clear evidence that environmental factors are associated with insufficient sleep and sleep disorders. However, more research is warranted to evaluate how and which environmental factors contribute to sleep health. Interventions that target changes in the environment to promote healthy sleep should be developed, tested, and evaluated as a possible pathway for ameliorating sleep health disparities and subsequently health disparities.