Many Canadian kids 'aren't moving enough to be tired, and they may also be too tired to move': report

Canadian children score an F for sedentary behaviour in a new report card that aims to get parents and health-care providers to factor in sleep to keep children and young people healthy.

Effects of chronic sleep loss in children and teens can be devastating

Almost a third of Canadian school-aged kids are sleep-deprived while most are spending too much time staring at screens 1:05

Canadian children score an F for sedentary behaviour in a new report card that aims to get parents and health-care providers to factor in sleep to keep children and young people healthy. 

The 2016 Participaction Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth also includes the amount and quality of sleep because daytime and nighttime behaviours are so interrelated.

Less than a quarter of five to 16-year-olds meet the recommendation of no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day. 

More than a quarter of Canadian school-aged children (31 per cent) and 26 per cent of adolescents are sleep deprived, the group said, based on data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey. Parents reported on sleep times rather than objective measurements.

Among five- to 13-year-olds, 79 per cent get the recommended nine to 11 hours of sleep per night. For teens, 68 per cent get the suggested eight to 10 hours per night.

"As parents, we need to set good examples and be good role models," said Elio Antunes, president and CEO of Participaction. "We need to put down our screens, we need to ensure we're getting adequate sleep, we need to ensure that we're active with our family and so we need to build in routines that support physical activity on a daily basis."

High school students spend an average of 8.2 hours in front of screen-based sedentary activities each day, according to the report.

About nine per cent of kids get enough heart-pumping physical activity.

Daytime behaviour, sleep and fatigue are interrelated, said Dr. Shelly Weiss, a neurologist at SickKids in Toronto who specializes in pediatric sleep disorders.

Weiss helped to develop the innovative guidelines.

"It's the first country in the world to actually think about guidelines for health in this way, thinking about a 24-hour guideline instead of thinking about just activity or just sleep," said Weiss. "It's a new way of thinking about keeping kids healthy."

Sleep is important for memory, learning, behaviour and attention in children and young people.

"When adults and children are more active in day they sleep better at night," Weiss said.

Parents, teachers, health-care providers and the general public can't just concentrate on what children do during the day, she suggested in recommending good practices such as a bedtime routine, regular sleep and wake times, removing electronics from the bedroom and sleeping in a dark room.

 The tendency to cram in activities during the day to wear kids out doesn't necessarily equal more physical activity, Antunes said. "It's time for a wake-up call."

 The Participaction report card includes data from multiple sources. The next report will be published in 2018.

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