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Maintaining Active Lifestyle Can Reduce Obstructive Sleep Apnea Risk

A new study recommends exercise-based interventions for those at risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

WASHINGTON — A new study found that maintaining an active lifestyle can reduce the risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The findings of the study appeared in the “European Respiratory Journal.”

The new study titled “Physical activity, sedentary behavior, and incidence of obstructive sleep apnea in three prospective US cohorts,” led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, examined the relationship between active lifestyles and the risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The study followed around 130,000 men and women in the United States over a follow-up period of 10-to-18 years and found that higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of sedentary behavior were associated with a lower risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“In our study, higher levels of physical activity and fewer hours of TV watching, and sitting either at work or away from home were associated with lower OSA incidence after accounting for potential confounders,” Tianyi Huang, M.Sc., Sc.D., an Associate Epidemiologist at the Brigham, said.

“Our results suggest that promoting an active lifestyle may have substantial benefits for both prevention and treatment of OSA.”

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a type of sleep apnea in which some muscles relax during sleep, causing an airflow blockage. Severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) increases the risk of various heart issues, including abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure.

Using the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), the research team used statistical modeling to compare physical activity and sedentary hours with diagnoses of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Investigators studied moderate and vigorous physical activity separately, and both were strongly correlated with a lower risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), showing no appreciable differences in exercise intensity. Stronger associations were found for women, adults above 65, and those with a BMI greater than or equal to 25 kg/m2.

“Most prior observational studies on the associations of physical activity and sedentary behavior with OSA were cross-sectional, with incomplete exposure assessment and inadequate control for confounding,” Huang said.

“This is the first prospective study that simultaneously evaluates physical activity and sedentary behavior concerning OSA risk.”

This study also differs from others because of its large sample size, detailed physical activity assessment, and sedentary behaviors. The research team was able to take many associated factors into account, making the findings more credible.

The authors noted that all collected data, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) diagnosis and physical activity or sedentary behavior, were self-reported. While all study participants were health professionals, mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is often challenging to detect and remains clinically unrecognized.

Furthermore, only recreational physical activity was considered, leaving out any physical activity in occupational settings. Sedentary behavior was only counted as sitting while watching TV and sitting away from home or at work.

The following research steps would be to collect data using actigraphy, home sleep apnea tests, and polysomnography, rather than self-reports, according to Huang.

In light of the findings, investigators encourage physicians to highlight the benefits of physical activity to lower obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) risk.

“We found that physical activity and sedentary behavior are independently associated with OSA risk. That is, for people who spend long hours sitting every day, increasing physical activity in their leisure time can equally lower OSA risk,” Huang said.

“Similarly, for those who are not able to participate in a lot of physical activity due to physical restrictions, reducing sedentary hours by standing or doing some mild activities could also lower OSA risk. However, those who can lower sedentary time and increase physical activity would have the lowest risk.”

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Ojaswin Kathuria and Nikita Nikhil

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