Have you noticed how easily kids go to sleep after playing in a basketball tournament or spending an afternoon riding bikes with friends? Or how they seem more restless, agitated or hyperactive at bedtime after a movie marathon on the iPad?
There is a direct connection between how active children are throughout the day and how well they sleep at night. And the quality of their sleep can affect how active they’ll be the next day.
Studies like the 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card show that many of our kids are caught in an unhealthy cycle. They don’t get enough exercise in the day because they’re too tired. By the time bedtime rolls around, they’re not truly tired enough to get to sleep right away or they sleep poorly because their day is spent sitting around. This mix of too little physical activity, too much sedentary behaviour and not enough sleep is having drastic effects on their physical and mental health.
Many studies also show that children who spend a lot of time in front of a screen and who do not meet minimum levels of physical activity are at an even increased risk for physical and psychological health problems. The more screen time kids have, the more at risk they are to gain extra weight. That’s in part because the screen time takes the place of time they could be physically active and because it can interfere with sleep.
It isn’t just quantity but quality of sleep that counts for kids. The physical health risks of having poor sleep patterns during childhood include diabetes, hypertension, immune system problems and cardiovascular problems. Teens specifically are at risk for athletic injuries if they don’t get enough sleep.
So what can parents do? The new 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, published by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, offers evidence-based guidelines to help them help their kids find the right mix of “Sweat, Step, Sleep and Sit.” These guidelines call for:
- at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity
- no more than two hours a day of recreational screen time
- limited sitting for extended periods
- between 9 and 11 hours of sleep per night for kids ages 5 to 13
- between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night for youth ages 14 to 17
A great way for kids to hit those physical activity targets is to take part in organized group activities. An ideal option for kids in Nova Scotia is the Kids’ Run Club, an award-winning free program created by Doctors Nova Scotia where kids become more active, develop lifelong healthy habits and have fun! Participants don’t need any previous experience with running and it doesn’t matter what shape they’re in when they start. They can even take part in youth runs across the province, including the kids’ runs at the famous Blue Nose Marathon in Halifax.
Your turn: What’s your best tip for ensuring kids get a good night’s sleep? Tell us about it in the comment section below.