A new study, conducted at Penn State University, has found that increased daily physical activity among teenagers and adolescents is linked to longer and more efficient night sleep, a necessity for healthy cognition.
The study, which had set out to examine the relationship between physical activity and sleep health, found that teenagers and adolescents who get more physical activities than they usually did got to sleep earlier and slept longer and better that night.
For every extra hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, the teens were found to have fallen asleep 18 minutes earlier, slept 10 minutes longer and had about one percent greater sleep maintenance efficiency.
Previous research had shown more active people to have reported longer sleep and better sleep quality but without explaining whether daily changes in these physical activities and sedentary behavior affected sleep length and quality.
Using data from 417 participants in the ‘fragile families and ‘child wellbeing’ study, the researchers measured the participants’ sleep and physical activity for one week with the aid of waist and hip accelerometers and made interesting discoveries.
“Adolescence is a critical period to obtain adequate sleep, as sleep can affect cognitive and classroom performance, stress, and eating behaviors,” said Lindsay Master, data scientist at Penn State University.
Being sedentary more during the day, the researchers revealed, was associated with worsening sleep health, as more sedentary participants fell asleep and woke up later but slept for a shorter amount of time overall.
“Our research suggests that encouraging adolescents to spend more time exercising during the day may help their sleep health later that night. You can think of these relationships between physical activity and sleep almost like a teeter-totter,” Orfeu Buxton, bio-behavioral health professor, said.
“When you’re getting more steps, essentially, your sleep begins earlier, expands in duration, and is more efficient. Whereas if you’re spending more time sedentary, it’s like sitting on your sleep health: sleep length and quality goes down.”
Experts have severally suggested that adolescents need eight to ten hours of sleep a night but recent estimates say 73 percent of adolescents are getting less than eight.
Asides the obvious dangers associated with sleep deprivation, several studies have linked insufficient sleep to differing health hazards like heart diseases and brain disorders.
This study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.