Nighttime media use was associated with less sleep, as well as self-reported anxiety and depression, in teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, based on data from 81 adolescents.
“This is the first study to document an association between nighttime media use and more sleep problems and internalizing symptoms in adolescents diagnosed with ADHD,” wrote Stephen P. Becker, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati and colleagues.
Although previous research has addressed the impact of screen time on sleep, anxiety, and depression in children and teens, the impact on adolescents with conditions such as ADHD has not been well studied, the researchers noted.
In a study published in, the researchers conducted a study of 81 adolescents aged 13-17 years who met diagnostic criteria for ADHD. The was used to measure sleep patterns based on self-reports, and parents reported on teens’ sleep using the . In addition, several other tools that measured ADHD symptoms, daytime sleepiness, anxiety, and depression were administered to both the teens and their parents.
The researchers assessed the number of technologies in each participant’s bedroom and the total hours of electronic media use at night, defined as after 9:00 p.m.
Overall, approximately 60% of the teens in the sample reported more than 4 hours of nighttime media use; 63% reported less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights, but this figure reached 76% when parent reports of teens’ sleep was used. When the teens’ self-reports were used, media use was not significantly different between those who had less than 8 hours of sleep vs. those who had 8 hours or more (5.85 vs. 4.39 hours of nighttime media use). But their parents’ reports told another story. In the parent reports, media use was significantly higher in the short sleepers vs. long sleepers (6.12 vs. 2.65 hours of nighttime media use).
After controlling for factors including age, sex, pubertal stage, use of stimulant medication, and severity of ADHD symptoms, nighttime media use was significantly associated with shorter sleep duration, the researchers said.
Nighttime media use also was significantly associated with greater adolescent-reported depressive symptoms, total anxiety symptoms overall, and panic symptoms in particular, as well as with parent-reported generalized anxiety symptoms.
The study findings were limited by several factors including the cross-sectional design, the lack of an objective sleep measure, and the lack of non-ADHD controls, the researchers noted. Also, the researchers were unable to measure parental control over teen media use or to examine different types of media use, including media multitasking (such as texting while video gaming).
However, the findings “suggest that it is important for clinicians to consider nighttime media use when assessing and treating adolescent ADHD, specifically regarding sleep issues and co-occurring depression and anxiety,” they said.
The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health.
SOURCE: Becker S et al. Sleep Med. 2018. .