If you think kids can get a little physical activity and then play video games into the wee hours, yet remain healthy, you’re in for a rude awakening. Emerging research, which spurred Canada to develop the world’s first 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, shows that physical activity, sedentary behaviour – and sleep – are closely interrelated.
Kids who are tired out from running around sleep better, and those who have slept well have more energy to run around. Society is starting to pay attention to the fact that the reverse is also true and troubling: kids aren’t moving enough to be tired, and they may also be too tired to move. A growing interest in the connection between these behaviours is highlighting the fact that sleep deprivation is a problem in Canadian kids.
ParticipACTION is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to help Canadians sit less and move more. ParticipACTION works with its partners, which include sport, physical activity, recreation organizations, government and corporate sponsors, to make physical activity a vital part of everyday life. Allana Leblanc, a Knowledge Manager with the organization, joined the Breakaway Podcast to provide more guidelines on sleep behaviour.
The ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth was released earlier in the year and discovered some startling numbers.
Younger kids need at least nine hours of sleep per night while teenagers should have a minimum of eight to ten. However, nearly a third of all Canadian children aren’t getting enough sleep.
How can we try to fix this problem?
One solution is to reduce the amount of time we spend in front of screens. The majority of time spent on a device also means that you aren’t moving around. Leblanc recommends a maximum of two hours in front of screens, with the rest spent on other forms of play. It is especially important to limit screens before bedtime, as it allows kids to unwind as they get ready to go to bed.
This can require an attitude change about how we spend our free time. Don’t look at it as a punishment, says Leblanc, but rather as limits.
“It’s not only the amount of sleep but the quality of sleep. We’re learning more and more that the physical activity increase and reduced screen time helps you sleep better.”
Setting consistent bed times and wake up hours are also recommended to improve the quality of sleep. There are cycles of both good and bad sleep behaviour and it’s important to try to stop any bad habits.
What constitutes a good sleep? There are different ranges for different people and it’s up to you to figures out your body clock and signals. One way to help this is to remove any screens from the bedroom, even for adults.
“A good quality sleep is what we see when we have a bedroom that’s comfortable, conducive to sleeping, so it’s dark, maybe a bit cooler. You have a bedroom that’s reserved for sleeping, so from a mental capacity you know that when you go to your bed it’s for sleeping, it’s not for chatting online or surfing the internet or anything like that. It is for sleeping, so save those activities for other parts of the house.”