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'Creeping sleepidemic': Report card says more than a quarter of Canadian kids sleep-deprived

The first "evidence-informed" Canadian sleep guidelines were released on Thursday as part of ParticipACTION's annual Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.

Pointing to what it calls a "creeping 'sleepidemic,' " the national non-profit organization has included sleep recommendations for the first time in the 12th annual report card.

"The whole day matters," says Dr. Mark Tremblay, the report card's chief scientific officer and Director of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute's Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group. "Any benefit you or I or our kids might get from a dose of physical activity depends on whether or not they had a good night's sleep last night and whether they're going to have a good night's sleep tonight and whether they're sitting all of the other time or the day."

The quality and consistency of sleep has been deteriorating for children and youth given the prevalence of screens in the bedroom, Tremblay says.

Currently, 31 per cent of school-aged kids and 26 per cent of adolescents in Canada are sleep-deprived, according to the report card.

"I don't think it's been a prominent public health discussion point," he says.

The new sleep guidelines aim to better inform people as to their actual needs.

"These are the first evidence-informed Canadian sleep guidelines," Tremblay says.

Under the new guidelines, kids between the ages of five and 13 years old should get between nine and 13 hours of sleep each night, while kids 14- to 17-years-old are said to need between eight and 10 hours.

The new guidelines come only days after the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released its own official guidelines for the amount of sleep children need for optimal health.

Although there are slight differences – the AASM's guidelines say kids aged six to 12 should sleep for nine to 12 hours per 24 hours – the two sets of recommendations largely overlap.

Sleep has finally entered ParticipACTION's annual report card thanks to clear scientific evidence linking it to active lifestyles, says Elio Antunes, the organization's president and CEO.

"There is a direct correlation between that and their physical activity levels," he says.

Sleep can help create either a virtuous or vicious cycle, Antunes notes.

Well-rested kids are more likely to have the energy for daily physical activity, and that physical activity will help them get a good night's sleep; kids who don't get to bed on time or otherwise rest well are more likely to be sleep deprived and remain sedentary throughout the day.

Under this new "the whole day matters" philosophy, this year's report card includes new "Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines."

The guidelines say children and youth aged five to 17 should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, several hours of "light physical activities," follow the above-mentioned sleep recommendations and have no more than two hours a day of "recreational screen time."

While 70 per cent of children ages three and four get the recommended 180 minutes each day of activity at any intensity, only 9 per cent of kids and youth aged five to 17 get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity each day.

Those numbers have changed in at least three years, with the grade of D– once again doled out to kids for "overall physical activity."

But Antunes says more information, like the new guidelines published in the report card, will help parents and children make better decision, although change will only happen gradually.

"Changing behaviour is a complex process and it takes a lot of time," he says. "It'll take decades. It won't happen overnight."

2016 ParticipACTION Report Card - Highlight Report

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