A research published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood reports that every hour of the day children are inactive adds three minutes to the time it takes them to fall asleep.

The study indicates that children who fall asleep faster also sleep for longer. Although, it appears one is not the direct consequence of the other.

Research shows that approximately 16 percent of parents of school aged children report that their child finds it difficult to get to sleep.

There is a connection between poor sleeping patterns in children and inferior school performance. It is also linked to an increased risk of overweight and obesity.

Using an activity monitor (called an actigraph) worn for 24 hours, the authors evaluated the daytime activity and sleep patterns of a representative sample of 591 seven year olds.

They obtained full information on sleep patterns for 519 of the children. They took an average of 26 minutes to fall asleep. This is known as sleep latency, ranging from 13 to 42 minutes (interquartile range).

The parents reported that around one in ten of the children regularly found it difficult to fall asleep quickly. These children took around 15.5 minutes longer to get to sleep.

The children, who were physically active during the day, fell asleep more rapidly than their more sedentary peers. The more vigorous activity they did, the faster they fell asleep.

In addition, every hour of the day spent in sedentary activity increased sleep latency by three minutes.

Shorter sleep latency was also associated to longer duration of sleep. It fell by more than 11 minutes for each additional hour of sleep.

The authors comment these findings will validate what many parents already believe: that tiring out a child with plenty of physical activity will increase the likelihood that she or he will sleep well.

They write in conclusion: “This study emphasizes the importance of physical activity for children, not only for fitness, cardiovascular health and weight control, but also for sleep.”

“Falling asleep: the determinants of sleep latency”
G M Nixon, J M D Thompson, D Y Han,D M O Becroft, P M Clark, E Robinson, K E Waldie, C J Wild, P N Black, E A Mitchell
Online First Arch Dis Child 2009; doi 10.1136/adc.2009.1574453
Arch Dis Child

Written by Stephanie Brunner (B.A.)