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Can sleep contribute to “closing the gap” for Indigenous children?

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Relatively simple interventions could make a significant difference

The wellbeing of Australian Indigenous children has long been an issue of concern and the subject of numerous national partnerships, action plans and government policies. This is primarily because of the high incidence of health problems and academic deficits among Indigenous children in comparison with non-Indigenous children.1 The aim of these government policies is to bring about a general increase in Indigenous children’s health and academic outcomes. We propose that poor sleep health may be a significant and, to date, poorly addressed factor that should be considered within the discourse around closing the gap in the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children and young people.

The body of literature on this issue provides very clear evidence that sleep problems in children (whether they have a physiological or non-physiological cause) have strong and causal associations with secondary deficits in academic performance, attention and learning, emotional regulation, behaviour and mood regulation, with increased likelihood of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, somatic health and psychological health.2 While there is a paucity of comparable data for Indigenous children, some studies are beginning…