A recent study conducted by the University of South Australia found that maintaining healthy weight and mental state in a child can be achieved with more sleep, in addition to increased exercise and less sedentary time (sitting or lying down for long periods).
The study surveyed a total of 1,179 Australian children, male and female, aged 11-12 years, for 24-hour periods. Participant’s daily physical activity (light and moderate/vigorous), sedentary time, and sleep time were monitored to determine the best overall ratio that would foster a child’s healthiest body mass index (BMI; a measure of body fat based on height and weight) and mental state. Health-related quality of life was also self-reported (participants provided details about their health and quality of life to researchers).
Children with lower BMIs and better quality of life were found to be sleeping more and engaging in more moderate/vigorous activity, which also meant less sedentary time and light activity. Researchers also noted that children displaying better academic achievement were discovered to also participate in less light activity.
Although the study showed that the most effective method to reducing BMI by as much as 7% is to increase moderate/vigorous exercise time, an equivalent outcome can be achieved by either reducing sedentary time by 56 minutes per day or adding 52 minutes of additional sleep each night.
The study also found that a child’s mental health can benefit from either:
Although more sleep is easier said than done, sleep optimization tools and routines are useful to ensure your child gets as much rest as possible.
While family lives and daily schedules can be chaotic, the study finds that minimal adjustments to sleep and exercise can lead to positive outcomes for children. Most children need an hour of exercise each day, can handle no more than two hours of screen time, and require approximately 9-11 hours of sleep. The researchers suggest only about 7% of children achieve these goals, so finding ways to offset an imbalance can promote healthy physical and mental development.