Sleep and Physical Activity

Does physical activity result in better sleep?

Does higher physical activity during the day result in better sleep for children with cerebral palsy? And, does better sleep during the night result in higher physical activity the following day? For parents managing their child’s day-to-day activities, these are important questions. Most children with CP who are ambulatory, still experience some limitations in their walking skills. Therefore, they tend to be more sedentary and engage in less physical activity than their peers, which increases the risk for other health problems such as obesity and diabetes. Sleep problems are also common in children with CP.

Sleep, sedentary time and physical activity compose a child’s whole day, and this study explored their relationship. The study measured physical activity and the quality & quantity of sleep time in ambulatory children with CP between the ages 3 and 12 years. Surprisingly, the study results were not as expected based on patterns in peers with typical development.

The study suggests that ambulatory children with CP may not necessarily sleep better after higher physical activity, and good sleep may not result in higher physical activity the following day either. The relationship between sleep and physical activity in children with CP is complex and would need to be further studied.

So how should parents manage their child’s sleep and physical activity? For now, the paper recommends a holistic approach to managing a child’s day, in consideration of the individual child’s daily physical activity patterns, needs and relevant contextual factors. A more long-term study with a larger sample size will be necessary for conclusive results in the future.

Parent resources

Looking to connect with other families who understand what you're going through? 

Join the CP Support Canada Facebook Parent Group

CP Smile Project

The CP Smile Project is a community project that helps ensure children with cerebral palsy have access to recreational opportunities that allow them to engage in play and community involvement. We give monthly bursaries to families to help them provide the support needed for their child to engage in play and have fun.