Health: People who watch TV for more than four hours a day are 78% more likely to snore

Sitting in front of the TV for more than four hours a day increases your risk of obstructive sleep apnea — and the resulting snoring — by 78 percent, a study finds.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School tracked the health and physical activity levels of some 138,000 people for 10-18 years.

They found that increased levels of sedentary behavior — and correspondingly low levels of physical activity — increased the risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

People who spend all day sitting, such as in office jobs, should compensate for this by exercising more in their free time, the researchers advised.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the airways can become completely blocked at night, interrupting normal breathing, leading to snoring and disturbed sleep.

If left untreated, it can increase the risk of cancer, glaucoma, heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive and behavioral disorders.

Experts estimate that approximately 1 billion adults between the ages of 30 and 69 worldwide suffer from mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Spending more than four hours a day in front of the television increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea — and the resulting snoring (pictured) — by 78 percent, a study finds.

“We saw a clear link between levels of physical activity, sedentary behavior and OSA risks,” says Harvard Medical School author and epidemiologist Tianyi Huang.

“People who followed the World Health Organization’s current physical activity guidelines of getting at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week and watching TV for less than four hours a day had a significantly lower OSA risk.”

“Importantly, we saw that any additional increase in physical activity and/or a reduction in the number of sedentary hours can have benefits that reduce the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.”

“The difference in OSA risk between sedentary work and time spent sedentary watching TV may be explained by different behaviors associated with those activities.”

‘For example, snacking and drinking sugary drinks are more likely to be associated with watching TV than sitting at work or elsewhere, such as sitting while traveling.’

“This can lead to additional weight gain, which we know is a risk factor for OSA.”

In their study, Professor Huang and colleagues tracked the health of more than 138,000 American adults for 10-18 years.

Although no one had obstructive sleep apnea at the start of the study, 8,733 participants had been diagnosed by the end of the study period.

After taking into account possible confounding factors — including age, body mass index, and alcohol/tobacco use — the team found that participants found that those who exercised more had a significantly lower risk of developing OSA.

Notably, those who did the equivalent of running three hours a week were 54 percent less likely to develop the condition than those who got only the equivalent of two hours of walking a week.

In addition, those who watched sedentary TV for more than four hours a day had a 78 percent greater risk of OSA than the most active subjects, while those who did sedentary work had a 49 percent greater risk.

The researchers cautioned that the current study was based on self-reported health data — and that future work would benefit from data collection rather than wearable health monitoring technologies.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and ubiquitous condition that can have a serious impact on people’s quality of life,” said Anita Simonds, president of the European Respiratory Society, who is not involved in the current study.

“While OSA can be treated with modern treatments, only a minority of studies have focused on prevention,” added the respiratory and sleep medicine expert from the Royal Brompton Hospital.

“Health professionals should prioritize prevention and support people at risk of developing OSAS to be more active before it’s too late.”

“This study adds to the evidence on the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle in preventing lung disease, and it is encouraging that even a small increase in physical activity or reduction in sedentary hours can provide potential benefits.”

“It is therefore an important message to get across to our patients and their families in primary care and in the ventilator clinics.”

The full findings of the study have been published in the European Respiratory Diary.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the walls of a person’s throat relax and narrow during sleep, blocking their airways.

This interrupts normal breathing, with symptoms such as loud snoring, noisy and labored breathing, and repeated episodes when breathing is interrupted by gasping and snorting.

OSA affects between four and ten percent of people in the UK. About 22 million are affected in the US.

During an episode, the lack of oxygen triggers a patient’s brain to wake them from deep sleep so that their airways reopen.

These repeated sleep interruptions can make the person very tired, often unaware of what the problem is.

Risks for OSA include:

  • Overweight – excess body fat increases most of the soft tissues in the neck
  • to be masculine
  • be 40 years or older
  • Having a big neck
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Being in Menopause – Hormonal Changes Cause Throat Muscles to Relax

Treatment includes lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, if necessary, and avoiding alcohol.

In addition, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices prevent airway closure by delivering a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask.

A mandibular advance device (MAD) may also be used, which resembles a gum shield that holds the jaw and tongue forward to increase the space at the back of the throat.

Left untreated, OSA increases a person’s risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, and type 2 diabetes.

Source: NHS