Increased activity leads to healthier sleep


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Is your child getting enough sleep?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/06/2016 (2409 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Is your child getting enough sleep?

That’s the question many parents may ask themselves following the release of the latest Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.

The report card, produced by ParticipAction and released last week, suggests many kids are sleeping about 30 to 60 minutes per night less than they did a few decades ago.

Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times files Children are getting less sleep than they did a decade ago.

This sleep deficit, the report card’s authors argue, is part of a vicious cycle that is having a significant effect on the health of Canadian kids.

Experts say school-age kids need about 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity each day to maintain their health. Yet research shows only nine per cent of kids do so. In addition, only 24 per cent of kids have less than two hours of recreational screen time per day.

According to the report card, the lack of activity and the lack of sleep are connected. Kids don’t get enough physical activity during the day to make them tired at night, which means they aren’t getting the sleep their growing bodies need to be active during the day.

Being tired and cranky is one thing, research shows too little sleep can also cause hyperactivity, impulsiveness and a short attention span. Children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to struggle with verbal creativity and problem-solving. Chronic sleep loss is also associated with higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Fortunately, efforts are underway to address the problem.

For example, the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, along with several partners, has developed the Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth. These guidelines, the first of their kind in the world, are designed to ensure kids “sweat, step, sleep, and sit” for appropriate amounts of time every 24 hours.

According to the guidelines, kids should:

● Sweat — accumulate at least 60 minutes of heart-pumping moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day and incorporate muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least three days per week.

● Step — work several hours of a variety of structured and unstructured light activities into the day.

● Sleep — kids aged five to 13 need nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Older teens need eight to 10 hours. Consistent bed and wake-up times are important during the day to make them tired at night.

● Sit — limit the amount of time spent sitting (sedentary behaviour) for extended periods. No more than two hours per day of recreational screen time.

Following these guidelines will reduce the amount of screen and sedentary time kids experience each day and free up more time to be active. This will help make it easier for kids to get a good night’s sleep, which, in turn, will help give them the energy to be more active.

Opportunities to increase our children’s physical activity don’t need to be complex, expensive or difficult. As we move into summer, let’s help kids get sufficient sleep. Trade indoor time for outdoor time; put away the screens; replace sedentary activities with light, moderate and vigorous physical activity for greater health benefits.

If Canadian kids sit less and move more, we will all sleep better.

For more information on this year’s Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth — visit

Kristine Hayward is a physical activity promotion co-ordinator with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

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