Experts Unveil New Sleep and Activity Guidelines for Children

Photo Credit: Laura Lee Moreau, Unsplash

Photo Credit: Laura Lee Moreau, Unsplash

Kas Roussy of CBC News spoke with UBC sleep specialist and nursing professor Wendy Hall, the only Canadian on the 13-member American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s panel of experts, who says the recommendations on how much sleep children need on a daily basis are important because lack of sleep is a growing trend. She noted that few people are educated about sleep and “most parents and care providers don’t really know how much sleep children should be getting”.

The Academy’s recommended Daily Sleep for Kids (including naps) is:

  • 4-12 months: 12-16 hours
  • 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

As well, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Conference Board of Canada have led the development of the Canadian 24 Hour Movement Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Youth, released along with the 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth on June 16, 2016.

The guidelines, designed for children and youth 5-17 years of age, and which “represent the first time these behaviours are integrated as a single recommendation”, according to the website,  recommend that a healthy 24 hours includes:

  • SWEAT (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity): an accumulation of at least 60 minutes per day if moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities.  Vigorous physical activities, and muscle and bone strengthening activities should each be incorporated at least 3 days per week.
  • STEP (Light Physical Activity):  Several hours of a variety of structured and unstructured light physical activities
  • SLEEP (Sleep): Uninterrupted 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night for those aged 5-13 years and 8 to 10 hours per night for those aged 14-17 years, with consistent bed and wake-up times
  • SIT (Sedentary Behaviour): No more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time.  Limited sitting for extended periods.

For people of all ages, the right amount of sleep has been shown to impact attention, behaviour, memory, and overall mental and physical health.  Sleep deprivations has been associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity and depression.  The CBC article quotes Dr. Hilary Myron, a pediatric sleep specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, who stresses the importance of sleep to cognitive and emotional development, and recommends “It’s having a consistent sleep routine, seven days a week…and removing screen from their children’s bedroom”:  no tablets, smart phones or tv.  She says that parents who are worried about their children getting too little or too much sleep should consult their doctor.

The 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card, also released on June 16, reveals sedentary lifestyles are connected to a creeping ‘sleepidemic’ among Canadian children and youth. Extracts for the highlights include:

  • Children’s sleep duration has decreased between 30 minutes to one hour in recent decades
  • 31 per cent of school-aged children and 26 per cent of adolescents in Canada are sleep-deprived
  • 36 per cent of Canadian 14-17 year olds find it difficult to stay awake during the day
  • 43 per cent of Canadian 16-17 year olds are not getting enough sleep on weekdays
  • 33 per cent of 5-13 year olds and 45 per cent of 14-17 year-olds in Canada have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep at least some of the time
  • Too little sleep can cause hyperactivity, impulsiveness and a short attention span
  • Sleep is an essential component of healthy cognitive and physical development:
    • Children with reduced sleep are more likely to struggle with verbal creativity, problem solving, and generally score lower on IQ tests
    • Short sleep duration produces adverse hormonal changes like those associated with increased risks of obesity, diabetes and hypertension
    • Chronic sleep loss contributes to higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts

Which is why for the first time, the 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card assigns a grade to sleep and includes the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth.

  • The 24-Hour Movement Guidelines were developed by HALO-CHEO, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, the Conference Board of Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, ParticipACTION and a group of leading researchers from Canada and around the world, with input from over 700 national and international stakeholders.

…because many kids are too tired to get enough physical activity during the day, and not active enough to be tired at night – it’s a vicious cycle.

  • Only 9 per cent of 5-17 year olds get the recommended 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day.
  • Only 24 per cent of 5-17 year olds meet the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommending no more than two hours of screen time per day.
  • Only 10 per cent of 11-15 year olds in Canada meet the screen time recommendation of no more than two hours per day, and only 20 per cent of the same age group report at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on all seven days of the week.
  • Insufficient physical activity levels and increased sedentary behaviours impact sleep in children and youth:
  • Every hour kids spend in sedentary activities is associated with a delay in their bedtime by 3 minutes. And the average 5- to 17-year-old Canadian spends 8.5 hours being sedentary each day.
  • The health benefits that come with heart-pumping physical activity are reduced if children have poor sleep habits or engage in excessive sedentary behaviour. And well-rested children are not healthy if they are not getting enough activity.

So, it’s time to take sleep seriously. And the best sleep aid there is, is to get kids off the couch with regular heart-pumping activity.

  • Active transportation (e.g., walking or biking) and outdoor play increase exposure to sunlight, which helps regulate sleep patterns
  • Physical activity helps kids fall asleep faster
  • If children get more good quality sleep, they will be able to get more physical activity
  • As little as 45 minutes of MVPA per week appears to be beneficial to brain health
  • Research shows a link between higher levels of physical activity in children and youth and lower levels of anxiety and depression
  • A positive link between physical activity and academic performance continues to be seen in children and youth

Click here to download the 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card Highlight Report, including the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, or the Full Report.

CBC News article: Experts Unveil New Sleep Guidelines for Children