Headspace App Reduces Anxiety, Sleep Problems in Children with ADHD: Study
The pediatric version of the guided meditation app Headspace may benefit children with ADHD, according to this small pilot study that explores the feasibility and promise of digital health interventions.
December 14, 2021
Headspace, a digital meditation application, significantly reduces anxiety and sleep problems in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), according to a small study recently published in the Journal of Attention Disorders1.
The pilot study, which evaluated the efficacy of the health app in 18 children with ADHD between 6 to 12 years old, saw a decrease in anxiety and sleep problems in the group after four weeks of use compared to baseline. These reductions were true for participants no matter how much they meditated.
The Headspace app guides users through mindfulness-based techniques and exercises designed to reduce stress. For this study, the authors tested the recently developed pediatric version of Headspace. (Headspace’s role in the study was limited to providing participants with free access to the app and providing the authors with data on participant application usage.)
The study participants were recruited from a pediatric psychopharmacology clinic, and they were asked to complete at least one minute of age-appropriate meditation per day for a total of four weeks. (Parents and guardians downloaded the app on their devices or accessed the intervention online.) About 80 percent of participants were male, with an average age of 9.2 years.
Parents and guardians also completed the Beck Anxiety Inventory, which tracks symptoms of anxiety in children, and the Children’s Sleep Habits questionnaire, which asks about sleep difficulties in children, at the start and end of the study period. About 60 percent of participants meditated for at least half of the total study period.
The authors took into account the total number of meditation days, total duration of meditation in minutes, and percent of days with meditation among participants, but found that anxiety and sleep problem scores did not move in accordance with greater participation.
Though preliminary, the findings, according to the authors, suggest that an easy-to-use, in-home, digital guided meditation intervention may benefit children with ADHD with comorbid anxiety and or/sleep problems, and is worthy of further investigation in larger trials.
Such digital health interventions, the authors write, are promising, given that most of the studied mindfulness approaches in literature lack ease and accessibility (require travel, in-person sessions, etc.).
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1 Fried, R., DiSalvo, M., Farrell, A., & Biederman, J. (2021). Using a Digital Meditation Application to Mitigate Anxiety and Sleep Problems in Children with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1177/10870547211025616