Kids who are tired out from running around sleep better, and those who have slept well have more energy to run around.26, 27 And society is starting to pay attention to the fact that the reverse is also true and troubling: kids aren’t moving enough to be tired, and they may also be too tired to move. A groundswell of interest in the connection between these behaviours is highlighting the fact that sleep deprivation is a problem in Canadian kids:

Only 24% of 5- to 17-year-olds meet the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommendation of no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time per day.

  • In recent decades, children’s sleep duration has decreased by about 30 to 60 minutes.14,15
  • Every hour kids spend in sedentary activities delays their bedtime by 3 minutes.16 And the average 5- to 17-year-old Canadian spends 8.5 hours being sedentary each day.2012-13 CHMS
  • 33% of Canadian children aged 5 to 13, and 45% of youth aged 14 to 17, have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.2012-13 CHMS
  • 36% of 14- to 17-year-olds find it difficult to stay awake during the day.2012-13 CHMS
  • 31% of school-aged kids and 26% of adolescents in Canada are sleep-deprived.17


Even kids who are meeting the minimum requirements for sleep duration are not necessarily getting good sleep. Increased screen time and packed schedules mean that kids are getting poor or inconsistent sleep – for instance, staying up late to do homework during the week, or watching TV in their bedrooms until midnight and then playing catch-up on the weekends.

  • 43% of 16- to 17-year-old Canadians are not getting enough sleep on weekdays.17

The perils of a sleep-deprived generation are not limited to kids being tired and cranky; they show their fatigue in different ways.18 Some effects of sleep deprivation in kids are obvious and some are not so obvious:

  • Too little sleep can cause hyperactivity, impulsiveness and a short attention span.19,20
  • Children with reduced sleep are more likely to struggle with verbal creativity and problem solving, and generally score lower on IQ tests.20,21
  • A short sleep duration produces adverse hormonal changes like those associated with increased risks of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.20
  • Chronic sleep loss is linked to higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.22,23

And it’s a vicious cycle: a study of Toronto kids aged 9 to 11 years showed that those who slept the least on school nights were significantly less active and more sedentary than those who slept the most.24

Continued after summary of grades…

The good news is that regular, heart-pumping physical activity might just be the best sleep aid there is:

  • Grade 5 students with higher physical activity levels are less likely to be sleepy during the daytime.25
  • Active transportation (e.g., walking or biking) and outdoor play increase exposure to sunlight, which helps regulate sleep patterns.18
  • Physical activity helps kids fall asleep faster.26
  • High school students who get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day are 41% more likely to get sufficient sleep than those who don’t.27

Our tendency may be to cram more into each day to wear kids out, but more activities don’t necessarily equal more physical activity. Plus, overscheduling can impact sleep by getting kids excited and pushing back dinnertime, homework time and bedtime.28 As stated in the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, a healthy childhood requires a balance of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep. The health benefits that come with heart-pumping physical activity are reduced if children have poor sleep habits or engage in excessive sedentary behaviour. And well-rested children are not healthy if they are not getting enough activity.

To stem the creeping “sleepidemic”, kids need to get off the couch, get outdoors and get their hearts pumping regularly. It’s time for a wake-up call. If Canadian kids sit less and move more, we will all sleep better.

See How Canada Stacks Up

For the first time, the grades from the ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth are compared to grades from 37 other countries across six continents. 

Citation Information

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121 Gray C, Larouche R, Barnes JD, Colley RC, Tremblay MS, Cowie Bonne J, Arthur M, Cameron C, Chaput J-P, Faulkner G, Janssen I, Kolen AM, Manske S, Salmon A, Spence JC, Timmons B. Are we driving our kids to unhealthy habits? Results from the Active Healthy Kids Canada 2013 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(6):6009-6020.

122 Pabayo R, Gauvin L, Barnett TA. Longitudinal changes in active transportation to school in Canadian youth aged 6 through 16 years. Pediatrics. 2011;128(2):e404-e413.

123 Longmuir PE, Tremblay MS. Top 10 research questions related to physical literacy. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2016;87(1):28-35.

124 Whitehead M. Physical literacy throughout the lifecourse. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group; 2010.

125 Lloyd M, Colley RC, Tremblay MS. Advancing the debate on “fitness testing” for children: perhaps we’re riding the wrong animal. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2010;22(2):176-182.

126 Longmuir PE. Understanding the physical literacy journey of children: the Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy. International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education. 2013;Bulletin 65:276-282.

127 Francis CE, Longmuir PE, Boyer C, Andersen LB, Barnes JD, Boiarskaia E, Cairney J, Faigenbaum AD, Faulkner G, Hands BP, Hay JA, Janssen I, Katzmarzyk PT, Kemper HC, Knudson D, Lloyd M, McKenzie TL, Olds TS, Sacheck JM, Shephard RJ, Zhu W, Tremblay MS. The Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy: development of a model of children’s capacity for a healthy, active lifestyle through a Delphi process. J Phys Act Health. 2016;3(2):214-222.

128 Longmuir PE, Boyer C, Lloyd M, Yang Y, Boiarskaia E, Zhu W, Tremblay MS. The Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy: methods for children in grades 4 to 6 (8 to 12 years). BMC Public Health. 2015;15(1):767.

129 Lizotte C, Larouche R, LeBlanc AG, Longmuir PE, Tremblay MS, Chaput JP. Investigation of new correlates of physical literacy in children. Health Behav Policy Rev. 2016;3(2):110-122.

130 Sport for Life Society. Canada’s Physical Literacy Consensus Statement released! Victoria: Sport for Life Society; 2015. URL:

131 International Physical Literacy Association. International Physical Literacy Association homepage. Plymouth: International Physical Literacy Association; 2016. URL:

132 Canada’s Physical Literacy Consensus Statement is the result of a collaborative process among ParticipACTION, Sport for Life Society, the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Physical and Health Education Canada, Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, and the Ontario Society of Physical Activity Promoters in Public Health. Representatives from the International Physical Literacy Association also contributed in an advisory capacity. Canada’s Physical Literacy Consensus Statement. Vancouver: 2015. URL:

133 Tremblay MS, Carson V, Chaput JP, Dinh T, Duggan M, Faulkner G, Connor Gorber S, Gray CE, Gruber R, Hartnell C, Janson K, Janssen I, Katzmarzyk PT, Kho ME, Latimer-Cheung A, LeBlanc C, Okely T, Olds T, Pate R, Phillips A, Poitras VJ, Rodenburg S, Rodin R, Saunders TJ, Sampson M, Stone J, Stratton G, Weiss SK, Zehr L. Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth: an integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab (submitted).

134 Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, DonCarlos L, Hazen N, Herman J, Katz ES, Kheirandish-Gozal L, Neubauer DN, O’Donnell AE, Ohayon M, Peever J, Rawding R, Sachdeva RC, Setters B, Vitiello MV, Ware JC. National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015;1:40-43.

135 Gruber R, Carrey N, Weiss SK, Frappier JY, Rourke L, Brouillette RT, Wise MS. Position statement on pediatric sleep for psychiatrists. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014;23:174-195.

136 Owens J; Adolescent Sleep Working Group; Committee on Adolescence. Insufficient sleep in adolescents and young adults: an update on causes and consequences. Pediatrics. 2014;134:e921-e932.

137 Chaput JP, Gray CE, Poitras VJ, Carson V, Gruber R, Olds T, Weiss SK, Gorber SC, Kho ME, Sampson M, Belanger K, Eryuzlu S, Callender L, Tremblay MS. Systematic review of the relationships between sleep duration and health indicators in school-aged children and youth. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. (in press).

138 Kjeldsen JS, Rosenkilde M, Nielsen SW, Reichkendler M, Auerbach P, Ploug T, Stallknecht B, Sjödin AM, Chaput JP. Effect of different doses of exercise on sleep duration, sleep efficiency and sleep quality in sedentary, overweight men. Bioenergetics. 2013;2:108.

139 Cain N, Gradisar M. Electronic media use and sleep in school-aged children and adolescents: a review. Sleep Med. 2010;11:735-742.

140 Pearson N, Braithwaite RE, Biddle SJ, van Sluijs EM, Atkin AJ. Associations between sedentary behaviour and physical activity in children and adolescents: a metaanalysis. Obes Rev. 2014;15:666-675.

141 Schmid SM, Hallschmid M, Jauch-Chara K, Wilms B, Benedict C, Lehnert H, Born J, Schultes B. Short-term sleep loss decreases physical activity under free-living conditions but does not increase food intake under time-deprived laboratory conditions in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90:1476-1482.

142 Chaput JP. Is sleep deprivation a contributor to obesity in children? Eating Weight Disord. 2016;21(1):5-11.

143 Leatherdale ST, Harvey A. Examining communication- and media-based recreational sedentary behaviors among Canadian youth: results from the COMPASS study. Prev Med. 2015;74:74-80.

144 Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario), Pyper E, Harrington DW, Manson HM. Screen time: parental support for child health. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2015. URL:

145 Sedentary Behaviour Research Network. Letter to the editor: standardized use of the terms “sedentary” and “sedentary behaviours”. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2012 Jun;37(3):540-542.

146 Stierlin AS, De Lepeleere S, Cardon G, Dargent-Molina P, Hoffmann B, Murphy MH, Kennedy A, O’Donoghue G, Chastin SF, De Craemer M; DEDIPAC consortium. A systematic review of determinants of sedentary behaviour in youth: a DEDIPAC-study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2015;12:133.

147 Maras D, Flament MF, Murray M, Buchholz A, Henderson KA, Obeid N, Goldfield GS. Screen time is associated with depression and anxiety in Canadian youth. Prev Med. 2015;73:133-138.

148 Liu M, Wu L, Yao S. Dose-response association of screen time-based sedentary behaviour in children and adolescents and depression: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Br J Sports Med. 2015. pii: bjsports-2015-095084.

149 LeBlanc AG, Katzmarzyk PT, Barreira TV, Broyles ST, Chaput JP, Church TS, Fogelholm M, Harrington DM, Hu G, Kuriyan R, Kurpad A, Lambert EV, Maher C, Maia J, Matsudo V, Olds T, Onywera V, Sarmiento OL, Standage M, Tudor-Locke C, Zhao P, Tremblay MS; ISCOLE Research Group. Correlates of total sedentary time and screen time in 9-11 year-old children around the world: the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment. PLoS One. 2015;10(6):e0129622.

150 Adamo KB, Colley RC, Hadjiyannakis S, Goldfield GS. Physical activity and sedentary behavior in obese youth. J Pediatr. 2015;166(5):1270-1275.

151 Gomes TN, dos Santos FK, Santos D, Pereira S, Chaves R, Katzmarzyk PT, Maia J. Correlates of sedentary time in children: a multilevel modelling approach. BMC Public Health. 2014;14:890.

152 McNeil J, Tremblay MS, Leduc G, Boyer C, Bélanger P, Leblanc AG, Borghese MM, Chaput JP. Objectively-measured sleep and its association with adiposity and physical activity in a sample of Canadian children. J Sleep Res. 2015;24(2):131-139.

153 Xu H, Wen LM, Rissel C. Associations of parental influences with physical activity and screen time among young children: a systematic review. J Obes. 2015;2015:546925.

154 Birken CS, Lichtblau B, Lenton-Brym T, Tucker P, Maguire JL, Parkin PC, Mahant S; TARGet Kids! Collaboration. Parents’ perception of stroller use in young children: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health. 2015;15:808.

155 Tremblay MS, Leblanc AG, Carson V, Choquette L, Connor Gorber S, Dillman C, Duggan M, Gordon MJ, Hicks A, Janssen I, Kho ME, Latimer-Cheung AE, Leblanc C, Murumets K, Okely AD, Reilly JJ, Stearns JA, Timmons BW, Spence JC; Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for the Early Years (aged 0-4 years). Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2012;37(2):370-391.

156 Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario), Pyper E, Harrington DW, Manson HM. Physical activity: parental support for child health. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2015. URL:

157 Statistics Canada. Directly measured physical activity of adults, 2012 and 2013. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2015. URL:

158 Rhodes RE, Spence JC, Berry T, Deshpande S, Faulkner G, Latimer-Cheung AE, O’Reilly N, Tremblay MS. Understanding action control of parental support behavior for child physical activity. Health Psychol. 2016;35(2):131-140

159 Carson V, Stearns J, Janssen I. The relationship between parental physical activity and screen time behaviors and the behaviors of their young children. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2015;27(3):390-395.

160 Bélanger-Gravel A, Gauvin L, Lagarde F, Laferté M. Correlates and moderators of physical activity in parent-tween dyads: a socio-ecological perspective. Public Health. 2015;129(9):1218-1223.

161 Yao CA, Rhodes RE. Parental correlates in child and adolescent physical activity: a meta-analysis. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2015;12:10.

162 Carson V. Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between parental support and children’s physical activity in the early years. J Phys Act Health. 2015. [Epub ahead of print]

163 Edwards MJ, Jago R, Sebire SJ, Kesten JM, Pool L, Thompson JL. The influence of friends and siblings on the physical activity and screen viewing behaviours of children aged 5-6 years: a qualitative analysis of parent interviews. BMJ Open. 2015;5(5):e006593.

164 Katapally TR, Muhajarine N. Capturing the interrelationship between objectively measured physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children in the context of diverse environmental exposures. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015;12(9):10995-11011.

165 Dowd AJ, Chen MY, Jung ME, Beauchamp MR. “Go Girls!”: psychological and behavioral outcomes associated with a group-based healthy lifestyle program for adolescent girls. Transl Behav Med. 2015;5(1):77-86.

166 Spencer RA, Bower J, Kirk SF, Hancock Friesen C. Peer mentoring is associated with positive change in physical activity and aerobic fitness of grades 4, 5, and 6 students in the heart healthy kids program. Health Promot Pract. 2014 Nov;15(6):803-811.

167 Eskicioglu P, Halas J, Sénéchal M, Wood L, McKay E, Villeneuve S, Shen GX, Dean H, McGavock JM. Peer mentoring for type 2 diabetes prevention in First Nations children. Pediatrics. 2014;133(6):e1624-e1631.

168 Michie S, van Stralen MM, West R. The behaviour change wheel: a new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. Implement Sci. 2011;23:6:42.

169 Spence JC, Dinh T. Moving ahead: Taking steps to reduce physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada; 2015.

170 Healthy Families BC. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Victoria: Healthy Families BC; 2013. URL:

171 Biddle S, Wang CJ, Kavussanu M, Spray C. Correlates of achievement goal orientations in physical activity: a systematic review of research. Eur J Sport Sci. 2003;3(5):1-20.

172 Ryan RM, Patrick H, Deci EL, Williams GC. Facilitating health behaviour change and its maintenance: interventions based on self-determination theory. Eur Health Psych. 2008;10(1):2-5.

173 Bandura A. Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. London: Macmillan; 1997.

174 Hatfield DP, Chomitz VR. Increasing children’s physical activity during the school day. Curr Obes Rep. 2015;4(2):147-156.

175 Hinckson E, Salmon J, Benden M, Clemes SA, Sudholz B, Barber SE, Aminian S, Ridgers ND. Standing classrooms: research and lessons learned from around the world. Sports Med. 2015. [Epub ahead of print]

176 Minges KE, Chao AM, Irwin ML, Owen N, Park C, Whittemore R, Salmon J. Classroom standing desks and sedentary behavior: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2016. 2016;137(2):1-18.

177 CTV News. Grade 1 kids get standing desks in Saskatchewan town. Toronto: CTV News; 2015. URL:

178 Statistics Canada. Table 252-0051 – Incident-based crime statistics, by detailed violations, annual (number unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database). Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2016. URL:

179 Boyce J. Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2014. Juristat. 2015;35(1). URL:

180 Moloughney BW, Bursey GE1, Neumann J, Leeming DH, Gutmann CE, Sivanand B, Mowat DL. Incorporating consideration of health impacts into land use development approval processes: development of a Health Background Study Framework. Can J Public Health. 2014;106(1 Suppl 1):eS33-eS42.

181 Cutumisu N, Bélanger-Gravel A, Laferté M, Lagarde F, Lemay JF, Gauvin L. Influence of area deprivation and perceived neighbourhood safety on active transport to school among urban Quebec preadolescents. Can J Public Health. 2014;105(5):e376-e382.

182 D’Haese S, Van Dyck D, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Deforche B, Cardon G. The association between the parental perception of the physical neighborhood environment and children’s location-specific physical activity. BMC Public Health. 2015;15:565.

183 Holt NL, Lee H, Millara CA, Spence JC. “Eyes on where children play”: a retrospective study of active free play. Child Geogr. 2015;13(1):73-88.

184 Lee H, Tamminen KA, Clark AM, Slater L, Spence JC, Holt NL. A meta-study of qualitative research examining determinants of children’s independent active free play. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2015;12:5.

185 Gray C, Gibbons R, Larouche R, Sandseter EB, Bienenstock A, Brussoni M, Chabot G, Herrington S, Janssen I, Pickett W, Power M, Stanger N, Sampson M, Tremblay MS. What is the relationship between outdoor time and physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and physical fitness in children? A systematic review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015;12(6):6455-6474.

186 Nauta J, Martin-Diener E, Martin BW, van Mechelen W, Verhagen E. Injury risk during different physical activity behaviours in children: a systematic review with bias assessment. Sports Med. 2015;45(3):327-336.

187 Vanos JK. Children’s health and vulnerability in outdoor microclimates: a comprehensive review. Environ Int. 2015;76:1-15.

188 Janssen I, Rosu A. Undeveloped green space and free-time physical activity in 11 to 13-year-old children. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2015;12:26.

189 Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Cities and communities: partners in Canada’s future. Ottawa: Federation of Canadian Municipalities; 2015. URL:

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191 Prime Minister of Canada. Ministerial mandate letters. Ottawa: Prime Minister of Canada; 2015. URL:

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194 Prime Minister of Canada. Minister of Environment and Climate Change mandate letter. Ottawa: Prime Minister of Canada; 2015. URL:

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Leigh Vanderloo
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