Snoring has long been associated with poor sleep quality – but researchers such as Dr. Catherine Davis of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta are beginning to see that this can lead to learning and behavioral problems that are often mistaken for disorders such as ADHD.
And prescribing prescribing drugs like Ritalin to kids who aren’t sleeping well will only make matters worse, she says.
To investigate whether exercise might reduce sleep-disordered breathing among overweight kids, Davis and her team randomly assigned 100 overweight children to 13 weeks of “high-dose” exercise (40 minutes every school day), “low-dose” exercise (20 minutes), or to a control group that did not perform any additional exercise.
At the beginning of the study, parents of one quarter of the kids reported that their children had symptoms, such as snoring and inattention, serious enough to indicate a problem.
By the close of the program, half of the children who snored and were assigned to one of the exercise groups had stopped snoring. Greater improvements were seen among the high-dose exercisers. However, weight, fatigue and behavior did not change.
According to Davis, it’s possible that the workouts helped reduce the fat surrounding the neck area that can lead to collapse of the airway during sleep. The exercise may also have had metabolic or neurological effects that made the brain, nerves and muscles better able to maintain an open airway.