UW Sleep and Homelessness Project

Seattle is in the midst of an unprecedented homelessness crisis with no clear end in sight. The 2017 Homeless Assessment Report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that there are over 550,000 homeless people in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control has emphasized that homelessness is a public health issue that needs to be addressed with data-driven interventions, highlighting the need for a more systematic study of these vulnerable populations.

The de la Iglesia lab at the University of Washington is currently conducting an investigation of sleep quality in people experiencing homelessness in the Seattle area. By partnering with local shelters, we’re able to use actigraphy to chronically monitor sleep in the homeless, and study the relationship between lack of permanent housing, sleep quality and other health outcomes.

Through this series of interviews with our study participants, we aim to both highlight their experiences and bring greater public awareness to sleep health disparities in homeless populations. Participants also share their sleep recordings, which represent a powerful lens through which to get a snapshot of their lives. All participant names and locations are altered to protect participants’ privacy, and interviews may be edited for clarity and length.

Profile 1 – Searching for a Home Bass

by Ray Sanchez & Kaitlyn McGlothlen


“Do you mind if we take the elevator?” said Hinge, as he adjusted his headset microphone and unruly jet black wig, like a rockstar from an 80’s hair metal band. “My back pain makes it hard for me to walk down stairs.” Hinge is a 24-year old man currently experiencing homelessness, and recently participated in our first pilot study of sleep quality in homeless populations. While Hinge spends most nights at a homeless shelter… (click to read more)

Profile 2 – All at Once

by Ray Sanchez & Kaitlyn McGlothlen


Unlike many people her age, Carla finds herself needing to take multiple naps a day, typically in her partner’s car, just to feel well-rested. She is usually tired from the previous night spent in a nearby homeless shelter, where the surroundings are often volatile and make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. It’s not just her sleeping conditions that have led to her tiredness, however: Carla just found out that her leukemia is back… (click to read more)

Profile 3 – Let Me Sleep

by Kaitlyn McGlothlen & Ray Sanchez


We walked into a café, a common setting in what most call the coffee capital of the world. This café has a particularly distinct Pacific Northwest feel to it, sitting tucked away in a charming alleyway with upward of 150 posters scattered on the brick walls. Mike sat with his rainbow glitter nails wrapped around an orange cream soda, which he insisted upon drinking for health reasons. While the rest of Seattle overly consumes coffee, Mike sticks to the sweet stuff… (click to read more)