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Lack of activity may affect kids' sleep

July 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
New research shows that the number of hours your kids spend sitting around watching TV or playing video games may have a direct affect on when they fall asleep.Sixteen-year-old Andrea Whitecotton loves to blog and surf the net. And every now and then she gets hooked on a game.

"I'll be like playing a stupid game of solitaire and I'm just like no I have to stay up until I win," said Andrea.

During the summer, she spends five hours a day on her computer and sometimes less time sleeping.

Now, a new report in the "Archives of Disease in Childhood" scientifically maps out how one affects the other.

"Children now are sitting around the TV especially with the school system, where they go two months and then they're off two months. They're eating more and being active less. And they're having more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep," said Dr. Ellis Beesley, a pediatrician at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Researchers studied the activity and sleep patterns of nearly 600 7-year-olds.

In the study, every hour doing sedentary activity, like being on the computer or watching TV, increased the amount of time it took children to fall asleep by three minutes. In addition, children who fell asleep earlier and slept longer had better quality of sleep.

"I definitely agree, the less computer time the better and the less sedentary time the better," said Rick Whitecotton, Andrea's father.

Whitecotton says he sees the differences in his kids.

The more active a child is, the earlier they go to bed. Dr. Beesley says parents should aim for as much outdoor activity as possible.

"If they're not in school during the day, like summer vacations, they should probably have about six hours of activity in a day, running around, playing outside, bicycle riding, swimming, tennis, whatever they need to do," said Dr. Beesley.

He says rather than watch TV after dinner, the whole household should go out for a walk. It's quality family time that'll help everyone sleep better.

Andrea says she gets the connection and plans on getting more sleep in the fall.

"It's harder during the summer for sure, but during the school year it's a lot easier to like walk around and be active," said Andrea.

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