Sedentary lifestyles in kids causing obstructive sleep apnea 

Nutrition transition, obesity, metabolic syndrome among causes 

Dr. Randeep Guleria, chairman, Institute of Internal Medicine & Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Medanta, and former director & CEO, AIIMS, New Delhi.

The rapid rise in lifestyle diseases in children is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Children today are leading sedentary lifestyles which is harmful for their mental and physical health. Given their lethargic routine, which includes long sitting hours and screen time, they are becoming more and more prone to lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, COPD, anxiety, potential heart diseases and so on. 

According to a research paper titled ‘Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome in Children,’ by Dr. Randeep Guleria, Dr. Surya Prakash Bhat and Dr. Sushil Kumar Kabra, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is an increasingly recognized health issue especially in Asian Indian children aged 10 and above.

OSA is the most common sleep related breathing disorder in which there are episodes of complete or partial obstruction of the upper airway leading reduced or absent breathing during sleep. There are several reasons for growth of OSA in children some of which are growing urbanization and nutrition transition, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. 

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause of OSA in children. Obesity, tumor, down syndrome, cleft palate repairs, receding chin, allergies, oxidative stress and anatomical abnormalities are some other reasons. OSA is associated with metabolic, cardiovascular and neuropsychological disorders.

According to Dr. Guleria, chairman, Institute of Internal Medicine & Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Medanta, and former director & CEO, AIIMS, New Delhi, “OSA in children is defined as an absence of airflow with continued chest wall and abdominal wall movement for duration longer than two breaths. It is diagnosed by conducting a polysomnography test in children which is considered a gold standard. If diagnosed, children should be put under treatment which includes management of conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, hyperlipemia if present and if needed adenotonsillectomy may be conducted. Various lifestyle modifications should also be undertaken by children, including physical activities such as planned exercise, recreational activities, sports and so on. They should ditch the lethargic lifestyle and try to remain active. Use of CPAP device and surgical treatments are other ways of treating OSA.”

As a sleep-related disorder, OSA deprives children of the restful sleep they should be experiencing every night. Sleep plays a crucial role in developing young minds. Those regularly catching up on deep sleep enjoy improved learning, attention, memory, and overall wellbeing. OSA in children could lead to a long-lasting impact on their physical and mental wellbeing. 

To learn more about this health issue, parents and concerned caretakers should visit sleep experts and healthcare professionals which can help them in an early detection and the requisite recourse. This will ensure timely care and enable children to enjoy the golden phase of their lives. 


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