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Is Your Neck Size Putting You at Risk of Sleep Apnea?

When it comes Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), size can matter – neck size, that is.

There are many factors that can put a person at risk of sleep apnea. Age can be a factor and while postmenopausal women have an increased likelihood of having sleep apnea[1], another telling sign that you may be at risk of the common sleep disorder is the size of your neck[2].

Good for footy, not for sleeping

A large neck might be a sign of strength and mass on the rugby field, but having a thick neck might not be a good thing when it comes to getting a good night’s rest.

If you’re a man with a neck size of 17 inches (43 centimeters) or more, or a woman with a neck size of 16 inches (40 centimeters) or more, you fall into this category and need to be aware of your increased chance of having sleep apnea. It should be noted that ethnicity is not an independent risk factor on neck circumference[3].

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea, occurs when your throat relaxes while you sleep and your airway becomes partially or fully blocked.  When this happens, you might snore or stop breathing for a few seconds or longer until your brain sends your body a wake-up signal, sometimes unknowingly, to start breathing again.

Why thicker necks are a sleep apnea risk factor

The reason why people with larger neck sizes are vulnerable to sleep apnea is because people with a thicker neck naturally have a narrower airway, which makes it difficult for the airflow to pass through. The air is forced to squeeze down the throat to their lungs, which is why you might make snoring or wheezing sounds while you sleep. If the airway is completely blocked, silence follows during an obstructive (or central) apnea event, followed by a strong gasping for air[4].

If you know that your neck is on the larger side, are you aware of whether you snore or not at night? If you wake up throughout the night and regularly experience interrupted sleep, the chances are you do. It might be a good idea to check with your spouse – if they haven’t complained to you already!

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People with extra weight around the neck may be more likely to pump out the z’s loudly, seeing as the airway narrows when you lie down which causes you to snore. Men and women with a larger neck size may also have excess fat deposits near the upper airway which can obstruct breathing.

Of course snoring when you sleep doesn’t universally mean that you have sleep apnea. There are a variety of people who have sleep apnea, including people who are in prime physical condition.

However, if you think you might be a snorer and you’re aware that your neck size falls into this larger category, it would be a wise move to discuss the possibility with one of our team members.

Think you or your partner may have sleep apnea?

If you are facing some issues around sleep and daytime tiredness, but aren't sure if you should take this further, it could be useful to do some simple exercises to find out if what you are experiencing could be the sign of something more serious.

If this is you, find out what might be affecting your sleep by taking our free online sleep assessment or order a home sleep test kit.

Take A Free Sleep Assessment

It might sound like a daunting prospect but keep in mind that it’s better to be proactive and check if you know that your neck size may be indicative of sleep apnea.

There are a range of treatments available help solve sleep apnea, so take the first step and book a home sleep test today. If you’d like to do some further reading on the topic, we have a thorough resource available for both men and women through our '7 Ways To Treat Sleep Apnea eBook' which are available to download for free online.

Does your neck size fall into the category which may be a factor for sleep apnea? Have you had any experiencing in people telling you that you snore? Contact us today!

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References:

[1] http://www.sleep-apnea-guide.com/causes-of-sleep-apnea.html

[2] http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/sleep-apnea/symptoms-risk-factors

[3] http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/123-1321/4301/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4360487/