Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Jean Davis


Background: Secular trends demonstrate that young children are less active and sleep less. Inequity in an individual's energy balance is known to have poor health outcomes. Academic achievement, academic behavior, and weight status are proxy indicators for health and psychosocial outcomes in this study. Current guidelines in place for sleep and physical activity in childhood are the result of data collected in the form of self-reports. Quantification and qualification of physical activity dimensions and sleep characteristics are essential not only for the purpose of clearly establishing parameters but also for the intent of verifying optimal health outcomes and evaluating interventions related to conditions of energy balance.

Purpose: The purpose of this research was to determine the relationships amongst and between the objective dimensions of physical activity, sleep, weight status, academic achievement, and academic behavior.

Methods: This cross-sectional correlational descriptive design study monitored the physical activity and sleep duration for 24 hours per day for 7 consecutive days with triaxial accelerometers. Data was successfully gathered on 55 low socioeconomic income African American eight-year-olds. Weight status was measured and body mass index (BMI) was calculated. Standardized scores, subjective grades from the teachers, and attendance records were obtained from the schools. A qualitative component gathered demographic information related to home life, meal habits, and play times.

Results: This sample was predominantly overweight/obese. Light intensity activity accounted for 86% of their daytime hours while vigorous activity accounted for less than 1%. Moderate-vigorous activity bouts were inversely significantly correlated with the standardized reading scores. Students with failing reading scores had significantly more time per day in light activity and less time in moderate intensity activity. This sample averaged 8 hours of sleep per night. Students with failing math scores had significantly longer mean wake episodes at night. A significant difference between hours of sleep and weight status was seen. The overweight/obese child slept, on average, less than the normal weight child.

Conclusions: Sleep is an important health indicator. Lack of sleep has academic implications. Different weight classifications may benefit from different interventional activities. Future studies should be conducted with larger and diverse samples.