04/03/2014 08:49 am ET

Large Neck Size Linked With Sleep Apnea Risk In Boys

Having a large neck size is already considered a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea in adults, and now a new study suggests the same could apply to children, too.

Researchers from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario found an association between large neck size and increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea in males 12 and older.

While analysis of neck size should not be a replacement for a sleep study to diagnosis sleep apnea, researchers noted it could help guide doctors in understanding which children are at a higher risk for the sleep disorder, which is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep.

For the study, published in the journal Pediatric Pulmonology, researchers examined 245 children ages 6 to 17. They found that boys ages 12 and older had a 3.3 times higher relative risk for obstructive sleep apnea if they were in the top 95th percentile for neck circumference, compared with children with smaller neck sizes. However, they did not find such an association for girls.

Obstructive sleep apnea doesn't just lead to daytime fatigue -- in kids, it's also associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as bed-wetting, metabolic problems, and thinking problems, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.