Children in the ADHD group spent considerably more time using media than their counterparts, according to the report, with 48% of children in the ADHD group and 35% of children in the control group spending more than 2 hours on average per school day using some form of media.
“The rapidly growing use of screens by children of all ages, from [television] and gaming in older children to use of iPads by infants [aged younger than 1 year], is of increasing concern,” the authors write. A recent meta-analysis confirms a small but reliable
association of screen time with increased symptoms of ADHD, which appears, based on a small number of experimental and prospective studies, to have a causal component. Furthermore, a child having a television in his or her bedroom has been associated with increased overall screen time by approximately 32%, and the presence of a television in the bedroom has been associated with increased sleep problems as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends just 1 to 2 hours of screen time per day and removal of televisions from bedrooms.
There is a correlation between screen time and physical activity as well. Citing data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, the researchers note that children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 years with ADHD were 32% more likely to watch television for an hour or more each day and 20% more likely to participate in sports than their non-ADHD peers.
Physical activity is noted to improve attention and mood—both important factors contributing to ADHD, according to the study findings.
Exercise is also important in the development of executive function, which researchers say is a key driver in the inattention and disorganization that is hallmark to ADHD.
Reading, although not often used as a marker of healthy behavior, was included in the study based on the theory that it might reduce screen time and improve academic success and health literacy. Researchers found that the children with ADHD—a group that often
struggles with reading and spelling—were less likely than the control group to spend an hour or more each day reading. The research team suggests that reading on a daily basis, particularly at bedtime in lieu of screen activities, may be beneficial for learning and
sleep hygiene rituals in children with ADHD.
Researchers also note that the lifestyle factors examined in the study influence one another. For example, increased exercise and increased thirst may lead to more water consumption, which can offset screen time and improve sleep. Reduction in caffeinated
beverages also may prevent their diuretic effect and increase water intake, as well as prevent sleep problems.
Clinical recommendations should focus on integrated healthy behaviors although, practically, too many recommendations can also overwhelm parents, according to the report. The research team therefore recommends that step-by-step changes that could lead to a cascade of other improvements be recommended rather than an overall or complete lifestyle change.
“It is possible that ADHD leads to less healthy behaviors, due, perhaps, to impulsivity, inattention, dysphoric mood, family disorganization, or other factors. It is also possible that poor health behaviors contribute to, or exacerbate, ADHD. As it becomes more clear that the association of ADHD with lifestyle behaviors is robust, the importance of evaluating potential benefits of lifestyle intervention on ADHD continues to grow,” the study notes. “At the same time, ample evidence indicates that there is reason
to hope that lifestyle changes may help children with ADHD to improve.”
Taken from contemporarypediatrics