Pediatric Sleep Apnea and Exercise
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. While adults are most commonly affected by OSA, it also affects between 1% and 6% of children. It can be caused by medical conditions such as a narrow oral or nasal cavity, muscular weakness, a small lower jaw or a small or collapsed airway. Or, it can happen when the back of the nose or throat is blocked by the tongue or enlarged tonsils.
If your child is overweight or obese, he or she is at a higher risk for developing OSA or for more severe symptoms if OSA already exists.
Even a moderate amount of weight loss can improve your child’s OSA, and increasing his or her activity level is a great way to help him or her reach that goal. At Children’s Health℠, we can help you develop a realistic exercise plan your child will be able to handle – and even enjoy.
Extra weight, especially in the trunk or neck, puts pressure on your child’s airway and may cause the airway to collapse more easily during sleep. Regular exercise, in combination with a healthy diet, can reduce weight in children who are overweight or obese.
Since carrying extra weight is a significant factor in the development and worsening of OSA, weight loss could have a big impact on your child’s condition. Exercise also improves a child’s overall cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and energy.
Most experts recommend 60 minutes of physical activity daily, at least 5 days per week. However, for kids who are not physically active, this can seem difficult to achieve right off the bat. Remember that any amount of physical activity is better than none at all, and you can help your child gradually work toward his or her goal.
Bad habits are hard to break, so start slow and involve the whole family in regular physical activity. Going on a long walk, playing at the playground, riding bicycles, or finding other fun ways to exercise as a family can help.
Enrolling kids in organized sports is also a great way to ensure they get regular exercise, if this is an option. Being part of a team also teaches kids important skills like accountability, setting short- and long-term goals, and working with others.
Your child should do whatever form of physical activity he or she finds most enjoyable, whether it be dancing, soccer, basketball, swimming, walking – as long as he/she is active.