The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Be Active to Catch Zzzzs Faster

Posted in
Move more

Monday, Sep 28, 2009


Listen up Moms and Dads.  Do you dread bedtime because your youngster just can’t seem to wind down?  Maybe they get in bed but don’t easily fall asleep, thereby reducing their – and maybe your – total sleep time. 

Then get them moving more.  No, not right before bedtime but throughout the day. 

Researchers in New Zealand measured the physical activity of seven-year-olds by having them where an accelerometer for 24 hours1.  They also collected sleep data on the children. The average (median) time it took for the children to fall asleep was 26 minutes.  But those who were active during the day took less time to fall asleep than inactive children.  In fact, for the inactive children, every hour of sedentary time increased the time it took for them to fall asleep by 3 minutes.  Take a kid who plays video games or watches TV all day on a Saturday and you might end up with a bedtime nightmare. 

But more important than the inconvenience of a prolonged time between going to bed and falling asleep are the numerous potential learning and health consequences.  Poor sleep habits and reduced sleep time can lead to behavioral problems, mood swings, and learning difficulties.  In addition, inadequate sleep has been linked to increased obesity risk. 

Building Good Sleep Habits 

So making sure your child gets plenty of physical activity throughout the day will pay off at night.  Other good sleep-related habits recommended by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) for school-age children include:

  • Emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Make child's bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
  • Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine from beverages (colas, cocoa, tea) and foods (chocolate., coffee ice cream and frozen yogurt).
 Also, the NSF has a website, Sleep for Kids, to teach children about the importance of sleep and good sleep habits.

In this blog, we talk a lot about all the many, many wonderful health and calorie-burning benefits of physical activity for children and adults of all ages.  Falling asleep faster is another one you can add to the list.   What physical activity health benefit is most important to you?  List it in the comment section below.


1 Nixon GM et al.  Falling asleep: the determinants of sleep latency. Archives of Disease in Childhood 2009;94:686-689.