Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Obese kids more at risk for snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, says Italian study

Childhood obesity carries a lot of risks, especially later in life, and new research shows it can affect sleep early on.

A new study suggests kids who are significantly overweight are twice as likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. Those who don’t are even more prone to snore loudly. The results were published in the May issue of the journal Chest.

Italian researchers compared more than 800 elementary school- or preschool-aged children in Southern Italy. The study divided them into three groups based on their answers to a questionnaire about snoring.

Scientists classified 5.4 percent of the children as habitual snorers. 17 percent occasionally snored. A vast majority – 77.5 percent – did not snore at all.

The habitual snorers received screenings for obstructive sleep apnea. Only 14 children had the sleep disorder.

The researchers calculated each child’s body mass index (BMI) based on Italian growth charts. About 8 percent of the children were obese. 15 percent were overweight.

Through statistical analysis, it turned out 12.5 percent of obese children snored regularly. Only 4.6 percent of normal-weight children were considered habitual snorers.

3.1 percent of obese children included in the study had obstructive sleep apnea. That’s twice many as their peers.

These findings are counter to previous research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine and reported in the Sleepeducation blog. An Australian study concluded obesity increased the risk for obstructive sleep apnea for teens but not younger children.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious disorder and the symptoms can be mistaken for common snoring. Children with OSA often appear to struggler to breath during sleep, with obvious pauses and gasps for breath.

Two percent of healthy young children have OSA, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Learn more about obstructive sleep apnea in children or snoring. Get help at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Image courtesy Angela Wylie, Melbourne Sunday Age

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