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Summary Slow‐wave sleep has been associated with several physiological phenomena, including glucose metabolism, sympathetic nervous system activity, hormonal secretion and blood pressure regulation. The aim of these analyses was to determine
which sociodemographic and medical factors were associated with slow‐wave sleep duration in a large clinical sample. We conducted cross‐sectional analysis of clinical data from 1019 consecutive adults over a 10‐month period who had their first in‐laboratory polysomnogram
for suspicion of obstructive sleep apnea. Patients either underwent in‐laboratory full‐night polysomnogram followed by full‐night continuous positive airway pressure titration or split‐night polysomnogram. Patients also completed questionnaires to assess race, education,
marital status and medical co‐morbidities. A multiple linear regression model that predicted the natural log of slow‐wave sleep in minutes indicated that African Americans had approximately 48% less slow‐wave sleep than non‐African Americans. Increasing age and
male gender were also associated with less slow‐wave sleep. Overweight and obese individuals had significantly less slow‐wave sleep than those not overweight, even after adjustment for obstructive sleep apnea severity. Finally, those with severe obstructive sleep apnea had significantly
less slow‐wave sleep than those with less severe obstructive sleep apnea even after adjustment for obesity. Results remained unchanged when patients who had a split‐night polysomnogram were excluded. We observed less slow‐wave sleep in African Americans, a group at increased
risk of diabetes and hypertension compared with Caucasians, and in those who are overweight and obese and those with severe obstructive sleep apnea. Future research needs to explore potential reasons for reduced slow‐wave sleep in these individuals.