Childhood obesity and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 Feb;108(2):436-44. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00689.2009. Epub 2009 Oct 29.


The increasing prevalence of obesity in children seems to be associated with an increased prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) in children. Possible pathophysiological mechanisms contributing to this association include the following: adenotonsillar hypertrophy due to increased somatic growth, increased critical airway closing pressure, altered chest wall mechanics, and abnormalities of ventilatory control. However, the details of these mechanisms and their interactions have not been elucidated. In addition, obesity and OSAS are both associated with metabolic syndrome, which is a constellation of features such as hypertension, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, abdominal obesity, and prothrombotic and proinflammatory states. There is some evidence that OSAS may contribute to the progression of metabolic syndrome with a potential for significant morbidity. The treatment of OSAS in obese children has not been standardized. Adenotonsillectomy is considered the primary intervention followed by continuous positive airway pressure treatment if OSAS persists. Other methods such as oral appliances, surgery, positional therapy, and weight loss may be beneficial for individual subjects. The present review discusses these issues and suggests an approach to the management of obese children with snoring and possible OSAS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / pathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Thoracic Wall / physiopathology