Why is Physical Activity Important for Kids’ Sleep?

Exercise is not only good for our bodies and brains, but it also has a significant impact on our sleep. When was the last time you woke up and felt rested? Sleep is extremely important for our health and performance in life. I used to think that I could operate on low sleep but that slowly caught up to me. When I started to prioritize sleep, to ensure I received at least 8-9 hours a night, there were many positive changes. My energy level increased, my performance at work and play (the gym) was more productive with greater positive outcomes; and overall, I was a more joyful human.

Research shows that if you engage in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise you will see improvements with your sleep pattern (Dolezal et al., 2017). According to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guideline, children between the ages of 5 – 13 should receive 9 to 11 hours of sleep, and children between the ages of 14-17 should receive 8 – 10 hours of sleep a night. Did you know that every hour a day a child is inactive it can add three minutes to the time it can take them to fall asleep at night? A study concluded (Nixon et al., 2009) that children who were active throughout the day fell asleep faster compared to those who were more sedentary. This correlates with a recent study conducted by Propel at the University of Waterloo that parents reported better sleep habits in their children when they were participating in BOKS – the children fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer.

Can it be challenging to ensure we are receiving the right amount of hours of sleep for our bodies every night? Absolutely! Extracurricular activities, the newest shows being released on Netflix, and scrolling through social media before bed, can all have more serious effects on our sleep patterns than we think. I challenge you and your families to dial in on sleep habits and routines, because sleep is a powerful tool that allows us to function better physically, emotionally and mentally. Sleep is an amazing gift you can give yourself that will impact your health long-term.

Here are six tips for better sleep:

  1. Move your body every day: it will help you fall asleep faster and improves the quality of your sleep.
  2. Keep a sleep journal: Track the amount of sleep you are receiving. You can do this with pen and paper or there are a few different apps you can use. (Sleep Cycle, Sleep Tracker or Pillow Automatic)
  3. Have a regular bedtime and wakeup time. Consistency is key!
  4. Have a relaxing bedtime routine: Have a predictable routine to trigger the brain you are slowing down and getting ready for bed. Find a before-bed schedule that works for you and your children.
  5. Use your bedroom only for sleep. Try not to allow homework to be done in bed and minimize the amount of screen time before bed. Exposure to light at night suppresses the natural release of melatonin, which is our sleep promoting hormone, causing increases in alertness that can shift our circadian rhythm making it harder to fall asleep. If there is screen time before bed try using the “night shift” setting on iPhones, iPads etc.
  6. Be mindful of the food we consume before bed as it can result in having a deeper, longer more restful sleep or not. Bedtime snacks are great, but ensure we avoid sugary food, food with caffeine (chocolate or soda), or foods high in fat such as ice cream. Fresh fruit or vegetables, handful of nuts, oatmeal, raisins, or crackers (low in sodium) are all great choices.

Kyla Crocker

Regional Coordinator – Central Canada