Solution Sessions

afropunk solution sessions: season 2, episode 5

December 11, 2019

Black folks are tired, in every sense of the word. 

We have to go to jobs where we can’t always show up as our authentic selves, and live in a society that treats us with hostility or outright violence. In addition to being traumatizing, it’s  also just exhausting. 

Sleep is a racial justice issue!  According to the National Sleep Foundation, Black folks are not getting enough rest, especially when compared to white people. We’re at a higher risk for sleep disorders like insomnia; we’re more likely to sleep for fewer than six hours a night, have sleep apnea, experience poor quality of sleep, and daytime sleepiness. We only spend about 15 percent of our nights in a sleep stage called slow-wave sleep, which is considered to be the most restorative phase. White people, on the other hand, spend 20 percent of their night there, so basically white folks are getting higher quality sleep and more of it.   

This is a real problem with real consequences. The National Sleep Foundation says the racial sleep gap can have a domino effect on mental and physical health, and that some of the health issues that affect Black folks at higher rates, like heart disease and diabetes, can be linked with poor sleep. 

The racial sleep gap has physical and mental consequences, but it’s also deeper than that. To challenge oppressive systems like white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy, Black folks need to be able to dream that a better world is actually possible.  And how can we do that collectively as a people if we’re not getting good sleep? 

Our ancestors did not get the privilege of being able to sleep and rest. So by reclaiming the healing power of sleep unapologetically, we can right a generational wrong and maybe reconnect with them in our dreams along the way. 

On today’s episode of AFROPUNK Solution Sessions podcast, where Tricia Hersey, Atlanta based founder of the Nap Ministry, makes the argument for rest as a form of reparations. 

In her work bringing the healing power of sleep to the community through the organizing of group-naps, Tricia has recognized sleep as a means to resist white supremacy. She urges us to: 

  • Recognize that the pressure to always be producing is a tool of white supremacy. 
  • Acknowledge rest as a form of resistance against that programming. 
  • And to reject the stress of 24/7 productivity in your personal life and avoid imposing it on other Black folks.