How to measure neck circumference for sleep apnoea

It might seem like a strange statement, but how does neck size affect your sleep apnoea?

Men may know this measurement to buy shirts for their office jobs.  Surprisingly, the size of your neck may be very helpful in determining your risk of getting various sleep disorders. This includes sleep apnoea.  This is quite true for various reasons; these we will discuss.

How to measure neck circumference for sleep apnoea

How is your neck size related to sleep-associated breathing disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea?

Neck Size and the Link to Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Why might your neck size increase your risk of having sleep apnoea?  First, as a person becomes more and more overweight, one area of the body that becomes wider in circumference is the neck.  Therefore, a large neck will generally correspond to increased fat build up elsewhere in the body, including at the base of the tongue and the lining of the airways.

Besides having a large stomach, there will also be excessive tissue along the airway, especially in the area of the throat.

When airways become narrowed, it is more probable that it will collapse causing hyponeas.  It may also completely close up during sleep, causing obstructive sleep apnoea.

If an individual has become enlarged in the back of the mouth and throat.  Tonsils, adenoids, and the tongue can also be affected.  The weight of the neck tissue itself may also lead to soft airways collapsing, especially if gravity assists when the person is sleeping on their back.

When Is the neck size too big and what can be done?

To assess your risk of breathing problems in sleep, the distance around the neck, is typically measured with a paper or plastic measuring tape at your doctors. In general, it is considered to be a risk factor for sleep apnoea when the circumference is greater than 17 inches for men and greater than 16 inches for women.

The neck size can certainly have a significant impact on your ability to sleep.  Sleep specialists will measure neck circumference since it can be as useful as height and weight to determine your risk of having issues during sleep.  What can be done?

If your neck size is too large, weight loss will help to decrease the size of the neck.  In some extreme cases, evaluation by a surgeon may be necessary to reduce excessive tissue, including fat or skin removal.

In a recent study, it was shown that patients with sleep apnoea have thicker necks.  However, it was not clear whether this difference simply reflects the fact that sufferers are more over weight than the patients not suffering from sleep apnoea, or whether it represents a lesser distribution of fat over the neck region compared to the other regions of the body.

In the study the specialists measured the neck and abdominal circumferences in a large group of 670 patients suspected of having sleep apnoea, all of whom had full nocturnal sleep studies conducted, including the measurement of snoring.

The patients were divided into apnoeic and non·apnoeic groups based on an index of 10. Apnoeic, the group of sufferers with sleep apnoea, had significantly higher body mass index (BMI), larger necks, and abdominal circumferences than the non-apnoeic group, the healthy patients.

The study then matched the apnoeic and non-apnoeic patients exactly, one-for-one for BMI and age; this procedure left 156 patients in each group.  Abdominal circumferences were similar, but the neck circumferences were significantly higher in the apnoeic patients.

Neck measurement for sleep apnoea

Having a neck circumference that’s greater than 16 inches if you’re a woman or greater than 17 inches if you’re a man is one of numerous risk factors associated with obstructive sleep apnoea (Obstructive sleep Apnoea).   Sleep apnoea occurs when muscles at the back of your throat relax and temporarily restrict or block airflow as you sleep. This may lead to disrupted sleep and daytime fatigue.

The sudden drop in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnoea increases blood pressure and puts a strain on your cardiovascular system, raising your risk of developing heart problems such as high blood pressure, also termed hypertension and heart failure.

Measurement of patient’s waist circumference does vary considerably and has some limitations, while neck circumference is a simple and reliable measure to discern an ongoing issue with apnoea.

There have been studies aimed at assessing the association between neck circumference and waist circumference and to identify the best cut off point at which the neck circumference could predict central obesity in patients suffering from sleep apnoea.

Neck circumference was found to be strongly connected with waist circumference in prediabetic patients, even after the results were adjusted for other parameters including BMI. Neck circumference at 32 cm in females and at 38 cm in males were the best cut off points for identifying patients with central obesity.

Neck circumference could be considered as an alternative to waist circumference measurement in the screening of central obesity, which is the term given to abdominal obesity.

Sleep apnoea neck exercises

Any physical exercise that is a therapeutic alternative for patients with obstructive sleep apnoea, is beneficial because it is simple and inexpensive, as well as having systemic benefits.

Muscle toning of the neck and airways can contribute to improved sleep.  Exercise-related behaviours in obstructive sleep apnoea patients include increased upper airway muscle tone, reduced fluid accumulation in the neck, increased slow-wave sleep, reduced body weight, which is always a positive and reduced systemic inflammatory response.

Could singing help sleep apnoea?  Doctors are now suggesting vocal exercises could be the answer to a good night’s sleep.  The Mail Online website reported that after a recent study in which it was found that people, who followed a daily exercise programme of singing saw vast improvements in their snoring, and also with their sleep apnoea.

Regular aerobic exercise results in reduced sleep apnoea severity, reduced daytime sleepiness, increased sleep efficiency, and increased weight loss.  Further studies are needed in order to clarify the true role of physical exercise in the treatment of sleep apnoea and the complications associated with them.

By simply measuring your neck size, you may go down a path that leads to better long-term health.


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