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Active Kids Are Better Sleepers

July 24, 2009 07:00 AM
by Shannon Firth
Parents have known it all along, and now an Australian study proves it: If you want your children to fall asleep faster and sleep better, tire them out.

Fostering Healthy Sleep Patterns

As part of a broad study called the Auckland Birthweight Collaborative Study, questionnaires were used to assess the sleep habits and behaviors of 591 children. Participants also wore activity monitors to measure sleep and physical activity levels.

Researchers found that the more active a child was during the day, the easier it was for her to fall asleep, WebMD reported. The study also found that children with a shorter “sleep latency”—the time it takes to fall asleep—sleep longer than those with a longer sleep latency.

Every hour of daytime inactivity was equivalent to an additional 3.1 minutes of sleep latency. “These findings emphasize the importance of physical activity for children, not only for fitness, cardiovascular health and weight control, but also for promoting good sleep,” the researchers wrote, according to WebMD.

Getting adequate sleep is important for a child’s health and for school performance. "Sleep-deprived kids are unable to learn,” James B. Maas, Ph.D., and author of “Power Sleep,” told The Boston Globe. “Memory, concentration, communication skills as well as critical and creative thinking are all adversely affected.”

How much sleep do kids need? Citing a study from the National Sleep Foundation, Lylah M. Alphonse, a writer for The Boston Globe, explained that children between 5 and 12 years old need 10 hours of sleep, and preschool students require between 11 and 13 hours. Toddlers should get 12 to 14 hours, and “babies need even more,” Alphonse wrote.

Related Topics: Getting to sleep when you’re stressed; Sleep and activity among the elderly

In 2001, summarized a press release from the National Sleep Foundation that provided tips for those having sleeping problems following the 9/11 attacks.

Suggestions for bedtime rituals included reading or listening to music; turning off the TV, particularly news broadcasts, an hour before bed; and avoiding caffeine at least four hours before bed.

Mary Shomon, a writer for, added, “If you don't fall asleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and engage in a relaxing activity... Return to your bed when you're sleepy.”
Just as physical activity helps children to sleep better, so it helps the elderly to get a better night’s sleep. In a 2004 study, researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that “short-term exposure to either morning or evening social and physical activity improves cognitive performance and subjective sleep quality in the elderly.”


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