Neck Size and Sleep Apnea: What’s the Connection?

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Reviewed by

Raj Dasgupta, MD

Your neck size can affect how you sleep. Even though many women don’t know their neck size and men might only measure it for buying dress shirts, it’s actually linked to sleep problems like snoring and sleep apnea.

This is because a larger neck size can contribute to blocked airways during sleep, leading to breathing issues. So, understanding your neck size can help identify your risk for these sleep disorders.

Why Does a Big Neck Raise Your Risk of Sleep Apnea?

Neck Size and Sleep Apnea

When someone gains weight, their neck often gets bigger. This can lead to more fat buildup around the airway, making it narrower. This narrowing can cause breathing problems during sleep, known as sleep apnea.

Extra tissue in the throat, like big tonsils or tongue, can also make it harder to breathe.

Sleeping on the back can worsen this because gravity pulls down on the neck tissue, increasing the risk of airway collapse.

When Is the Neck Size Too Big and What Can Be Done?

When your neck size exceeds certain measurements—17 inches for men and 16 inches for women—it could lead to snoring and sleep apnea. Sleep doctors often measure neck circumference to assess breathing issues during sleep.

Weight loss is typically the first step to reduce neck size.

In severe cases, a plastic surgeon may offer treatments to reduce excess tissue.

Need professional help to diagnose and address your sleep problems? Schedule an online consultation with sleep specialist Dr. Owen Napleton.

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