Research reveals poor sleep is more common for Indigenous people

07 February 2022

Ground-breaking research out of CQUniversity (CQU)' James Cook University (JCU)' University of Queensland (UQ)' and Monash University has today been published' suggesting that Indigenous Australians suffer from poor sleep and subsequent side effects' more than non-Indigenous Australians.

The Indigenous Sleep study has been published in the well-regarded journal The Lancet Regional Health - Western Pacific.

CQUniversity's Head of Paediatric Sleep Research' Professor Sarah Blunden was part of the team that led the comprehensive study' which also included Dr Yaqoot Fatima from JCU's Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health and UQ's Institute for Social Science and Dr Stephanie Yiallourou from Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University.

Dr Blunden said there had previously been a lack of research into the sleep health of Indigenous Australians' with the researchers finding only nine adult studies' covering just over 2600 people to analyse.

"Just over 20 per cent of non-Indigenous adults and nearly 35 per cent of Indigenous Australians report a high prevalence of unhealthy sleep. We define that as problems initiating and/or maintaining sleep' short sleep' disrupted or restless sleep or excessive sleepiness'" Dr Blunden said.

Dr Yiallourou said the team knew about the negative impact of poor sleep on the metabolic' cardiovascular' immune system and respiratory health.

"Poor sleep quality and quantity are also strongly associated with deficits in emotional' educational' neuropsychological' psychosocial health' wellbeing and performance'" Dr Yiallourou said.

Dr Fatima said specifically' Indigenous Australians had high rates of sleep disordered breathing' together with other indicators of poor-quality sleep such as snoring and sleepiness.

"The good news is that we know sleep health is modifiable. So the prospect of improving sleep and subsequently improving downstream variables' including those chronic diseases related to poor sleep such as diabetes and hypertension' more common in Indigenous Australians' appears possible."

All three researchers are members of the Indigenous Sleep Health Working Party of the Australasian Sleep Association. The complete report on Indigenous Sleep can be found at