Weight Loss Without Dieting, Health Without Drugs - Free Health News

Permanent health solutions- updated often

December 23, 2003

Obese Kids - Breathing Problems During Sleep

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Obesity is associated with numerous ills, even in children, and new research suggests excess pounds may also prevent kids from getting a good night's sleep.

According to investigators at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, up to one third of obese children appear to have trouble breathing at some point during sleep, compared with only 5 percent of normal weight children.

Having enlarged tonsils also appears to put sleeping children at risk of breathing problems.

Study author Dr. Y.K. Wing told Reuters Health that kids' excess weight may lead to breathing problems by causing the airways to narrow or become congested during sleep.

Wing added that treatments for sleep-related breathing problems, also known as sleep apnea, include surgery to remove enlarged tissues in the back of the throat, weight loss if a child is obese, or the use of a specialized machine that keeps children breathing normally while asleep.

Sleep apnea describes a condition in which sleepers experience a temporary collapse of their upper airway. In addition to snoring, other symptoms of sleep apnea include snorts or gasps as breathing temporarily stops and restarts. The condition has been linked to poor concentration and attention problems.

Although obesity is a common feature in adults with sleep apnea, previous research into the role obesity plays in young sleep apnea sufferers has shown mixed results, with some studies suggesting obese kids breathe just as easily during sleep as normal weight children.

In the current study, Wing and colleagues observed 90 children during sleep, noting their weight and who among them experienced breathing problems. Around one-half of the children were obese.

The authors found that obese children appeared to be 20 percent more likely to show signs of sleep apnea than normal weight kids. Children with abnormally large tonsils appeared to increase the risk of sleep-related breathing troubles almost 13-fold, the authors write in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

These findings suggest that obese children with enlarged tissues in the back of their throats should be "aggressively managed," Wing and colleagues note.

The authors add that "the overall results suggest a modest argument" in favor of screening kids for sleep apnea solely on the basis of obesity.

Obese children with obviously enlarged tissues in the back of the throat have a high risk of sleep-related breathing problems, Wing and colleagues conclude.