Category: ADHD - Adult

PS3- #A24 - Sleep and Exercise Among College Students With ADHD

Friday, Nov 17
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: ADHD - Adult | Exercise | Sleep

Introduction: Prevailing cognitive models suggest that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) arises from general weaknesses in executive functioning (EF)—a set of “top-down” cognitive processes used to regulate behavior toward adaptive, long-term goals (Barkley, 1997). As many enter college, external sources of structure and routine are lost, or at least greatly diminished. Due the additional stress on self-regulation placed on college students, this transition is likely to correspond with increased disruption in health behaviors—particularly for those with ADHD (Fleming & McMahon, 2012). This is concerning, as deficient sleep and exercise may amplify the EF deficits that underlie ADHD (Fafrowicz et al., 2010; Neudecker et al., 2015). We sought to explore the relationship between ADHD and sleep and exercise behaviors.


Undergraduate students (ADHD n = 376; Non-ADHD n = 1,472) participated in an online survey from four universities that required participants to report on their ADHD symptomatology—including inattention (IA) and hyperactivity/impulsivity (HI) symptom severity—as well as their sleep and physical exercise behaviors.


As anticipated, the t-test analyses showed significant differences in frequency of exercise and sleep between those with and without ADHD. Individuals with ADHD reported engaging in less exercise in the prior week (M =2.11, SD = 2.00) than their non-ADHD peers (M = 2.44, SD = 2.01; p = .006, g = .16). This pattern held true regarding the frequency of exercise over a 90-day period, with the ADHD group (M = 2.80, SD = 1.99) reporting less exercise than their non-ADHD peers (M = 3.10, SD = 1.95; p = .006, g = .15). Only IA was negatively correlated with exercise over 7-day (r = -.09, p < .001) and 90-day periods (r = -.11, p < .001).

Individuals with ADHD reported getting less sleep on weekdays (M = 786.82, SD = 147.28) than their non-ADHD peers (M = 817.75, SD = 124.42; p < .001, g = .24). Self-reported amounts of weekday sleep were negatively correlated with IA (r = -.13, p < .001) and HI (r = -.13, p < .001). The amount of reported weekend sleep did not significantly vary between the ADHD (M = 862.81, SD = 170.34) and non-ADHD group (M = 867.18, SD = 143.56; p = .62, g = .03). Those in the ADHD group reported significantly more sleep problems (M = 24.28, SD = 6.02) than their non-ADHD peers (M = 21.32, SD = 5.22; t = 9.51, p < .001, g = -.55). Total sleep problems were positively correlated with IA (r = .36, p < .001) and HI (r = .30, p < .001).

Both sleep and exercise behaviors were found to be significantly worse among college students with ADHD, relative to their non-ADHD peers. This is concerning since healthy exercise and sleep hygiene is likely associated with amplifying the underlying EF deficits associated with ADHD. Additional implications and future directions will be presented.

Judah W. Serrano

Graduate Student
University of Wyoming

Patrick A. LaCount

Graduate Student
University of Wyoming

Cynthia M. Hartung

Associate Professor
University of Wyoming
Laramie, Wyoming

Christopher R. Shelton

Graduate Student
University of Wyoming
Laramie, Wyoming

Anne E. Stevens

Graduate Student
University of Wyoming
Laramie, Wyoming

Will H. Canu

Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina

Daniel Leopold

University of Colorado - Boulder

Erik Willcutt

University of Colorado - Boulder, Colorado