Increased exercise linked with lower sleep apnea risk
Increased physical activity is associated with a lower risk of obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep-related breathing disorder, according to a new study published in the journal Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
For the study, researchers reviewed lifestyle, medical, socio-demographic and sleep health data collected from more than 155,000 adults participating in the Ontario Health Study. Based on the physical activity of participants with and without sleep apnea, the investigators determined that a modest increase in physical activity, including walking, is associated with a 10 percent reduction in the risk of developing sleep apnea.
The authors found that adding 20 minutes to a daily walk and increasing vigorous daily activity by eight minutes would be enough to achieve a lower sleep apnea risk. The finding is independent of other known risk factors for sleep apnea such as sex, age, ethnicity, and obesity.
It is estimated that more than 29 million American adults have sleep apnea, many of them undiagnosed. Untreated sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and other potentially serious conditions.
The cross-sectional, population-based study analyzed baseline questionnaire data from 155,448 adult residents of Ontario, Canada, 60 percent women and 40 percent men. Their mean age was 46 years, and about 75 percent were white. About 6.9 percent of participants reported being told by a doctor that they have sleep apnea. Those with sleep apnea were more sedentary, sitting for a median of 4.4 more hours per week than those without sleep apnea.
Due to the cross-sectional nature of the study, the authors were unable to make temporal inferences on the observed associations between physical activity and sleep apnea. However, they report that previous studies also have suggested that physical activity can reduce the severity of sleep apnea.