Lifestyle Choices for Kids with ADHD

A recent study that looked at lifestyle behaviors of children with ADHD found that kids with the diagnosis engage in fewer healthy activities than their non-ADHD peers.

According to an article on the PsychCentral website, researchers under Dr. Kathleen Holton from American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and Dr. Joel Nigg from Oregon Health & Science University, “set out to determine whether children ages 7 to 11 were following key health recommendations for this age group from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Sleep Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

Using a lifestyle index developed for the study, the researchers compared results for 184 kids with ADHD to the results of 104 same-age peers without ADHD.

The findings revealed that children with ADHD were more likely to consume artificially sweetened juice, less likely to read for more than one hour per day, more likely to have more than two hours of screen time per day, and more likely to engage in fewer hours of physical activity during the week.

Parents of children with ADHD were also much more likely to report that their children have difficulty falling asleep, express concern about their child’s sleep habits, and fear that sleep problems may be leading to behavior issues. These associations remained even in children not currently taking ADHD medication, which is known to cause sleep disturbance.

While there is no claim of cause and effect based on this study, the researchers suggest the possibility that improving lifestyle choices could be an important component in an overall intervention strategy. “For example,” says Holton, “physical activity increases thirst, making water consumption more attractive. Physical activity can also offset screen time and can improve sleep. Similarly, removal of caffeinated beverages prevents their diuretic effect, helps increase water consumption, and can help prevent sleep disturbance.”