Sleep matters for everyone, especially kids.
Exercise helps children fall asleep faster, study indicates
Tiring out children with physical activities helps them fall asleep faster at night, research indicates, suggesting that parents who drag their children away from the televison and down to the park will be rewarded at bedtime.
Every hour a child spends inactive adds three minutes to the time taken to nod off, according to the study.
Experts from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand analysed the factors affecting sleep habits and found exercise played an important role.
The research, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, involved 519 children born in 1996 and 1997 and followed up when they were seven.
Most children fell asleep within 40 minutes, with an average of 26 minutes, but some children took almost three hours.
The children wore activity monitors to determine those who had sedentary lifestyles and those who undertook moderate or vigorous activity.
The children who took part in the more vigorous sort of exercise fell asleep faster but those with sedentary lifestyles took longer to fall asleep.
Children who fell asleep faster also tended to sleep for longer, raising the possibility of this being "a marker for good sleepers."
The researchers said: "As short sleep duration is associated with obesity and lower cognitive performance, community emphasis on the importance of promoting healthy sleep in children is vitally important.
"This study emphasises the importance of physical activity for children, not only for fitness, cardiovascular health and weight control, but also for sleep."
Going to sleep after 9pm and watching TV did not have any significant effect on the results, the researchers added.
Other research has shown that 16 per cent of parents of school-age children say their child has difficulty falling asleep.
"This difficulty may promote poor sleep habits such as watching TV in bed or later bedtimes," the experts said.