A large neck might be a sign of strength 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.
Many factors can put you at risk of sleep apnea. Age is one, and while postmenopausal women have an increased likelihood of having sleep apnea1, another telling sign that you may be at risk of the common sleep disorder is the size of your neck.2
If you're a man with a neck size of 17 inches (43 centimetres) or more – or a woman with a neck size of 16 inches (40 centimetres) or more – you fall into this category and need to be aware of your increased risk of having sleep apnea.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 and/or stop breathing for a few seconds or longer until your brain sends your body a wake-up signal to start breathing again.
The reason your larger neck sizes makes you vulnerable to sleep apnea is because you have more tissue around your airway so it’s more difficult for air to pass through. The air is forced to squeeze down your throat to your lungs, which is why you're probably snoring or wheezing while you sleep. If the airway is completely blocked, silence follows during an obstructive apnea event, followed by a loud gasp for air.4
If you know that your neck is on the larger side, are you aware of whether or not you snore 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 partner – if they haven't complained to you already!
Of course snoring when you sleep doesn’t necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea. There’s a variety of people who have sleep apnea, including many 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 check out the possibility that you have sleep apnea.
Treating your sleep apnea can help you to wake up feeling refreshed and may improve your overall quality of life.
If you are facing some issues around sleep and daytime tiredness, but you’re not sure if you should take this further, it could be useful to take some simple steps to find out if what you’re experiencing is the sign of something more serious.
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 putting you at risk of sleep apnea.
There is a range of treatments available to help treat 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 on sleep apnea here or talk to your healthcare professional about your concerns.
ResMed is a global leader in sleep technology that has its origins right here in Australia. Our goal is to provide people with the means to awaken their best and enjoy healthier lives by promoting good sleep habits and creating awareness for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/sleep-apnea/symptoms-risk-factors accessed 4 July 2019.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep-apnea/DS00148/DSECTION=risk-factors accessed 4 July 2019.
Han, Tae Seung et al. “Relationship between Neck Length, Sleep, and Cardiovascular Risk Factors.” Korean journal of family medicine vol. 36,1 (2015): 10-21. doi:10.4082/kjfm.2015.36.1.10
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