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Can Sunlight Help with ADHD?


Sunlight and ADHD. What's the connection?

Well, let me ask you first. If you have ADHD, have you noticed any difference in how you feel on days when you get outside and get a bit of sun versus on days when the only light that hits your eyes is the glow of the computer screen?

And I'm not trying to scold you. I've had those days myself. 

If you don't have a good answer for that one, well then consider that your homework! Next time you get some sunshine, make a note of your mood, focus levels, all that good stuff. See if you start to notice a pattern. 

As is turns out, there has been some research done on sunlight's ability to help reduce ADHD symptoms, and it turns out, it can help us! 

So that's what we're going to talk about today. 

So, hi! This is Julie from Julie Saad Wellness. I'm a holistic health coach who specializes in helping women with ADHD reduce their symptoms, focus more on their health, and f*cking have fun again. 

The Research on Sunlight and ADHD

Alright, so let's shed some light on the subject, shall we? A study that came out in 2013 showed an interesting inverse correlation between solar intensity and the prevalence of ADHD in various regions across the U.S. and in a few other countries. 

So in plain English, the more sun a place has, the fewer people there get diagnosed with ADHD. (1)


So what's going on here?

Why does sunlight appear to have a protective affect against ADHD?

I know you are smart and probably have a few ideas already, but here are some of the theories:

Sunlight Exposure Helps Us Sleep Better at Night

If you have ADHD, it's probably not news to you that after a night of poor sleep, your symptoms might be more intense than usual.

I know for me it is. Even though my ADHD symptoms were drastically reduced when I changed my diet, they will still come roaring back if I don't sleep well. It is not a good time. 

But what does this have to do with sun? Well, exposure to the sun's UV rays helps to make sure our internal clocks are, shall we say, set to the right time! 

So the sun helps us sleep, and good sleep can help keep ADHD symptoms at bay. 

The Sunshine Vitamin - Vitamin D 

I'm sure you've heard by now that vitamin D is often referred to as "the sunshine vitamin." Yes, you can get vitamin D from food, but your body also makes it when you're out in the sun. 

So . . . does vitamin D have anything to do with ADHD?

It turns out that yes, it does!

For example, one study published in 2019 looked at Iranian children, 50 children with ADHD and 50 without, and compared their vitamin D levels. Sure enough, the children with ADHD were more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than their non-ADHD counterparts. In fact, children with ADHD were found to be more than three times likely to have a severe vitamin D deficiency than those who were not diagnosed with ADHD. (3) Similar patterns were also found in kids in Qatar, Turkey, and China. (4)

It Might Actually Be Nature Itself

Studies have shown that being exposed to nature, and now, check this out, including backpacking, gardening or even viewing pictures of nature, or even just having trees and grass outside your apartment building that you can see. . . all of these things have been linked to improvements in attention and this goes for ADHD folks and non-ADHD folks. So just looking at nature stuff, whether real or fake, can help you with your focus and attention. So in this case, it's not necessarily the sunlight. (5)

Why on earth does this happen? Good question. The theory is not very sophisticated, to be honest. It's basically just that our brains like it. We like nature. And just doing my own little weird experiment here on my balcony, if I look out at the trees, my eyes just kind of relax, whereas if I look at the big apartment building next door, my eyes kind of start scanning everything, looking at the windows, which place is for sale, who has ugly curtains.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone else wants to do this little experiment. Do your eyes seem to relax more when you're looking at green spaces or other nature scenes versus something man-made? Next time you have the chance to do this experiment, let me know how it goes! Send me an email. 

It's Not Necessarily the Exercise

Now, a logical conclusion based on the findings from the study above is that, oh, well, it's not because they were outside per se, it's because they were running around, moving their bodies, and we know that exercise can have a mitigating effect on ADHD. 

Well, you'd be absolutely right to assume that, but guess what.

There was another study that was done in a very controlled way, where they basically compared outdoor activities to similar indoor activities, and by this I mean, the kids got the same level of movement, let's say. And here, even though the kids in both groups moved the same amount, the kids that were outside experienced more benefits. So it's not just that they were out there burning off energy, the simple fact that they were outside had a positive effect, be it from the sun's UV rays, the vitamin D, or just the simple act of being in nature. 

In Summary - Get Out!

So what's the takeaway here? If you have ADHD, or even if you don't but experience ADHD-like symptoms from time to time as everyone does, getting outside can help you out!

My assignment for you is to brainstorm some ways that you can get more of the outdoors in your life, if it's not already part of your normal routine. See what ideas you can come up with and what small steps you can take to implement them. 

I've recently started shifting more and more of my work day to my balcony. Whenever I have the chance to sit here, I try to, and I really feel, I don't know, happy, when I do. 

So that's it for today. If you know of anyone who could benefit from this information, please share it with them. 

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Thanks so much for being here, and have a happy and healthy day.