Sleep, exercise vital in healthy children

A father and daughter run in the annual Cherokee National Holiday 5K Holiday Run. ARCHIVE

TAHLEQUAH -- Sleep is important. Exercise is important. A good balance of both promotes a healthier lifestyle for children and adults alike.

According to the National Sleep Foundation's website,, children aged 6 to 13 years old need nine to 11 hours of sleep per night. However, there are factors that can lead to difficulty falling asleep, thus reducing sleep time. These factors can also cause nightmares or disruptions in sleep.

"School-aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products -- all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours," the website states.

It suggests parents should educate their children about healthy sleep habits that include:

* Emphasizing the need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine,

* Making a child's bedroom conducive to sleep -- dark, cool and quiet,

* Keeping TVs and computers out of the bedroom, and

* Avoiding caffeine.

The website also states poor sleep habits and problems can lead to mental and behavioral problems. "Sleep problems and disorders are prevalent at this age. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school."

Carol McCoy, Center for Therapeutic Interventions mental health counselor, said the mind is active during sleep and that activity is vital for a healthier mind.

"Children need more sleep than you and me as adults because their minds are still developing," she said. "The more sleep they get, the healthier the brain becomes which allows for them to stay alert during the day."

And the more a child is active during the day, the better sleep a child gets during the night. According to a study published in Medical News Today, exercise has a direct correlation when it comes to sleep patterns in children. The study states with every inactive hour during the day, it adds three minutes to the time it takes the child to fall asleep. The study also indicates children who fall asleep faster tend to sleep longer.

This is where exercise and physical activity come in. Children should spend 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day. For children, this means playing on the playground, their back yard, in gym class or recess at school. It could also mean being part of organized sports or other physical activity classes.

According to, there are benefits to children exercising, including having stronger muscles and bones, being less likely to become overweight, decreasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.

The website also correlates the need for exercise to help with sleep.

"Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better. They're also better able to handle physical and emotional challenges � from running to catch a bus to studying for a test," the website states.

Limiting the time spent watching TV, on computers or tablets and other stationary activities is one of the best ways to keep children more active.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents "put limits on the time spent using media, which includes TV, social media, and video games. Media should not take the place of getting enough sleep and being active... Keep TVs, computers and video games out of the children's bedrooms and turn off screens during mealtimes."

The National Sleep Foundation's tips for healthy sleep

* Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.

* Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.

* If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.

* Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.

* Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool -- between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.

* Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy -- about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up

Nourish Interactive's list of "Get the Children Moving And Being Active" tips

* Try to walk 10,000 steps a day.

* Set aside time everyday for daily activity. Make it part of your family's routine.

* Share activity ideas with other parents.

* Set a timer to remind kids to take an activity break away from the computer after 20 minutes.

* To avoid muscle injury, teach your kids to stretch their muscles.

* Children and teens need 1 hour of exercise each day to helps their growing bones, heart and overall health.

* Have a picnic in the park.

* Prioritize your To-Do list to schedule family exercise and plan ahead for healthy meals.

* The heart's a muscle too. Give it a workout.

* Take the kids to your local high school this weekend and run relay races around the track.

* All movement counts; Teach the kids to take the stairs instead of an elevator today.

* Pump up your metabolism with activities like jumping, dancing and jogging.

* Today is YMCA Healthy Kids. Take the kids to the nearby YMCA for some fun activities. Be an active family.

* Walking is the most popular exercise for adults. Teach your kids to walk for a healthy, daily activity.

* After a big meal, take a family walk and burn extra calories. It will also help you digest.

* Make the backyard or front yard into an obstacle course and have a family race!

* Exercise has even been proven to help kids sleep better and reduce stress.

* Promote activity rather than exercise to kids.

* Build healthy habits from their favorite activities.

* Start the day with a family stroll around the block

These are the first 20 of a list of 82 tips, for the complete list, go to