Her Perspective

Her perspective is lucrative and refreshing
by Talia Rodriguez

Health is not simply the absence of disease. As Latinos, the way we define “health” frames our interactions with healthcare systems and our physiological wellness. Imagine yourself having an internal battery that is only 100% when sleep health is optimized. Yet about 1 in 3 Latino adults sleep less than seven hours, according to the CDC. Latinos are the largest heterogeneous ethnic “minority” in the United States, but our collective “health” is understudied.

A new generation of health leaders has emerged in response. Firstly, redefining “sleep health” as how well an individual or population is doing instead of defining sleep health solely with sleep disorders. Secondly, sharing the vocabulary of sleep health, with the knowledge that words like, Sleep continuity, defined as the ease of falling asleep and returning to sleep, are not well known within the Latino community.

Fortunately, New York has a champion for sleep health, Sor Angeles “Soda”Kuczkowski. Our June feature, Soda, a passionate business owner, entrepreneur, and sleep advocate, is making waves in sleep health advocacy, particularly within the Latina community. And they are very timely.

Her quote: “In many Latina households, there’s a strong emphasis on hard work and resilience—qualities that are, of course, commendable. But sometimes, this can lead to a mindset where rest is viewed as a luxury or even a sign of laziness. It’s a cultural script that has been passed down through generations. To start changing this narrative, it’s essential to understand where it comes from and how it impacts our health and well-being,” says Kuczkowski. ”

“We need to shift the narrative within our families and communities to see rest not as a sign of weakness but as an essential aspect of health. In our community, where there’s a higher prevalence of certain chronic conditions, rest becomes even more critical, as lack of sleep can exacerbate health issues and contribute to a cycle of stress and fatigue. This emphasizes the need to openly discuss the importance of sleep and setting boundaries that prioritize our well-being.”

Soda’s journey is deeply rooted in her Puerto Rican heritage and a passion for addressing health disparities within minority communities. “Soy Boricua,” she asserts.

A second generation educator, her mother, Olga Sonia Dávila, was a trailblazer in the Buffalo Public Schools, leading initiatives for English as a second language. Learning English at age 22, Dávila earned an EdD in education and became instrumental in supporting bilingual education. Her legacy of education and advocacy profoundly influences her work. Today, Soda is an executive board member and chair of the Scholarship Committee for the Hispanic Women’s League (HWL), an organization her mother co-founded 45 years ago, fortified in its mission to empower, advocate, and support Latina women.

Akin to her long-term commitment to the HWL, Soda’s journey in sleep health advocacy spans over 18 years. As a certified sleep coach and educator, she has worked in various sectors of sleep medicine, from clinical to behavioral sleep to sleep health coaching. Her extensive experience informs her holistic approach to sleep health, advocating for a lifestyle that integrates restful sleep as a cornerstone of productivity.

Her perspective is lucrative and refreshing

Though 2023 was a unique year for the healthcare industry, experts forecast a promising future for investment and growth. As the number of Latinos engaged in health-related professions, health promotion, and founding health-centered businesses increases, we take a step forward in projecting our voices within a critical sector of the US economy and affirm expert projections.

Como la flor, we only bloom when we are well watered and well rested, and like Selena’s forever trending so is sleep. If you want to stay updated on the business of sleep and its benefits follow Soda’s journey and the “Doze podcast” dedicated to sharing the importance of sleep. So your latinaherstory call to action this month is to step into health advocacy, starting with appropriately, self -advocacy for self-rest.

Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and organizer. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J. Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors.


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