I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wait, what? My neck size?” Yes, that absolutely plays a role in your risk for sleep apnea. While it may not be known by everyone, neck size plays a pivotal role in the development of sleep apnea. So, why might your neck size increase your risk of having sleep apnea? Here is why.

What size is considered too big?

Men may know their collar size from wearing dress shirts or suits, but women may not be aware of their neck size because they never need to measure their necks for clothing. To evaluate your risk of breathing problems in sleep, the circumference, or distance around the neck, is typically measured with a paper or plastic measuring tape at the doctor’s office.

In general, this is a risk factor for snoring and sleep apnea when the circumference is greater than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women. Neck size can have a significant impact on your ability to sleep. Sleep physicians will often measure neck circumference since it can be as useful as height and weight to determine your risk of having breathing problems during sleep. In the right context of symptoms and other signs, it may be additional evidence to suggest the need for further evaluation.

There is a link with obesity

As an individual becomes more overweight or obese, one area of the body that becomes larger in circumference is the neck. When a large neck is in place, it is likely due to increased fat tissue elsewhere in the body, including the base of the tongue and lining of the airway. Other than having a large stomach, there will also be tissue crowding along the airway, especially in the throat.

When a person’s airway becomes narrowed, it is more likely to partially collapse, which causes hypopneas or, with vibration, the sound of snoring. It can even close off, leading to obstructive sleep apnea. If a person is experiencing enlarged tissues in the back of the mouth and throat, this can also contribute to the development of sleep apnea. A smaller lower jaw may push the tongue back into the throat and the weight of the next tissue itself may also lead to the collapse of the soft airway, especially if gravity contributes when the person is sleeping on their back.

Measuring your neck size may help you take the next steps toward better long-term health. Contact Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia for more information on sleep apnea and how neck size might play a role in diagnosis.