Study objectives: The degree to which physical exercise habits are related to sleep-disordered breathing is not known. We sought to investigate the association between a single-item exercise question and laboratory-assessed sleep-disordered breathing.
Design: A population-based cross-sectional epidemiologic study of adults measured the association between exercise and sleep-disordered breathing. Hours of weekly planned exercise were assessed by questionnaire. Sleep-disordered breathing was assessed by 18-channel in-laboratory polysomnography and characterized by the apnea-hypopnea index.
Setting: Polysomnography was conducted at the University of Wisconsin General Clinical Research Center sleep laboratory.
Patients and participants: Participants included 1104 men and women, aged 30 to 60 years, enrolled in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study.
Measurements and results: Associations were modeled using linear and logistic regression, adjusting for body mass index, skinfold measurements, age, sex, and other covariates. Adjusted mean (95% confidence interval) apnea-hypopnea index was 5.3 (4.4, 6.2) events per hour for participants who exercised 0 hours per week; 3.9 (2.8, 5.0) events per hour for those with 1 to 2 hours of exercise; 3.2 (2.2, 4.2) events per hour for those with 3 to 6 hours of exercise; and 2.8 (1.0, 4.6) for those with > 7 hours of exercise (P trend < .001). Similarly, the odds of having moderate or worse sleep-disordered breathing (apnea-hypopnea index > 15 events per hour) significantly decreased with increasing level of exercise.
Conclusion: Independent of measures of body habitus, lack of exercise was associated with increased severity of sleep-disordered breathing.