Take a look in the mirror
Sleep apnea occurs when the tongue and other soft tissues at the back of the mouth periodically fall back and block the airway. When the blockage is partial, these tissues may audibly vibrate (snoring).
Along with obesity, the following structural abnormalities of the head and neck are associated with sleep apnea. What they all have in common is that they impede air flow.
- Large, fat tongue. It’s well known that a big tongue increases the risk of sleep apnea. A study in the journal Sleep found that increased fat not only makes the tongue larger but also impairs its muscle function, making it more likely to sag and block the airway.
- Small maxilla (upper jaw bone), relative to the rest of your face. This is a common cause of an underbite.
- Small mandible (lower jaw bone). This is a common cause of an overbite.
- Thick neck. A neck circumference of more than 17 inches in a man and 16 inches in a woman makes it more likely that the airway will collapse during sleep. Neck thickness is largely (but not totally) a result of obesity.
- Deviated septum. When the middle wall in the nose is crooked, nasal air flow may be impaired.