Sleep and academic performance in Indigenous Australian children from a remote community: An exploratory study

Authors


Mr Patrick Cooper, 25 Gap Road, PO Box 1604, Alice Springs NT 0871, Australia. Fax: (08) 8951 4435; email: patrick.cooper@caac.org.au

Abstract

Aim:  Disruptions to sleep in childhood are associated with poor behaviour and deficits in academic performance and executive function. Although academic performance of indigenous children from remote communities in Australia is documented as well below that of non-indigenous children, the extent of sleep disruption and its contribution to academic performance among this population has not been assessed. This pilot study aimed to objectively assess the sleep of remote indigenous children and the association between sleep disruption and both academic performance and executive function.

Method:  Twenty-one children from a remote Australian indigenous community aged 6–13 years wore actigraphy for two consecutive nights, reported subjective sleepiness, and were objectively assessed for academic performance (Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, 2nd Edition) and executive function (NEuroloPSYcological Assessment-II).

Results:  Results show marked reduction in sleep time, sleep fragmentation, academic performance and auditory attention compared with non-indigenous norms. Sleep duration was not associated with performance, possibly because of reduced sleep and performance observed across the entire group. Sleep fragmentation was associated with reduced reading and numerical skills (P < 0.05).

Conclusions:  The sleep of indigenous children in remote communities is an important area of future inquiry, and our initial findings of poor sleep and an association between sleep disruption and academic performance may have important implications for intervention strategies aimed at ‘closing the gap’. Further studies should assess a broader range of demographic, social and economic factors to better understand the associations reported here and guide future intervention.

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