Study Finds Sleep Apnea Linked To Teen Obesity

NEWARK—A new study presented in November at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting found that obese adolescents have an increased risk of sleep apnea or abnormal breathing during sleep.

Previous research has shown that obese children and teenagers are at higher risk of health-related problems, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Children who are overweight are nearly 2-1/2 times more likely to have asthma than those who are not overweight. Now, this new study highlights how obesity may interfere with a child’s ability to have restful sleep.

“Quality nighttime sleep is a key component for advanced executive function in children and teenagers,” says Sushmita Mikkilineni, M.D., Director Pediatric Pulmonology for Children’s Hospital of New Jersey (CHoNJ) at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Untreated pediatric sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, can exact a heavy toll on young people. Children suffering from sleep disorders may be hyperactive, inattentive, and chronically tired.”

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the sleeper has one or more pauses in breathing during sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. This condition results in poor sleep quality and is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Most people who have sleep apnea do not know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents.

The Division of Pulmonary Medicine at CHoNJ provides comprehensive evaluation of children with respiratory and non-respiratory pediatric sleep disorders (including obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia etc.) provided by a physician who is board-certified in pediatric sleep medicine. A State-of-the Art Pediatric Centered Sleep Laboratory is available at CHoNJ for children who need sleep studies.

The Division of Pulmonary Medicine at CHoNJ reports children with sleep apnea may demonstrate these symptoms:

  • Snoring
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Restless sleep
  • Sweaty sleep
  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Social difficulties
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Poor school performance and grades

With treatment to eliminate sleep apnea, these symptoms can be reversed. Treatment of sleep apnea also prevents the strain placed on the heart and lungs by recurrent drops in oxygen and repeated awakenings during the night, which can result in hypertension and heart disease, reports Dr. Mikkilenini.

For more information or an appointment with The Division of Pulmonary Medicine, call 1-973-926-4273.

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