Genetic Ancestry for Sleep Research: Leveraging Health Inequalities to Identify Causal Genetic Variants

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Recent evidence has highlighted the health inequalities in sleep behaviors and sleep disorders that adversely affect outcomes in select populations, including African-American and Hispanic-American subjects. Race-related sleep health inequalities are ascribed to differences in multilevel and interlinked health determinants, such as sociodemographic factors, health behaviors, and biology. African-American and Hispanic-American subjects are admixed populations whose genetic inheritance combines two or more ancestral populations originating from different continents. Racial inequalities in admixed populations can be parsed into relevant groups of mediating factors (environmental vs genetic) with the use of measures of genetic ancestry, including the proportion of an individual's genetic makeup that comes from each of the major ancestral continental populations. This review describes sleep health inequalities in African-American and Hispanic-American subjects and considers the potential utility of ancestry studies to exploit these differences to gain insight into the genetic underpinnings of these phenotypes. The inclusion of genetic approaches in future studies of admixed populations will allow greater understanding of the potential biological basis of race-related sleep health inequalities.

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