A study done by the researchers from the University of Virginia shows that children with bigger necks are more likely to develop a sleep-related breathing disorder.

Sleep-related breathing disorders affect breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a type of sleep-related breathing disorder that occurs the most. In this disorder,
the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway. OSA affects about 2% of young children and can develop at any age although it is the most common in preschoolers, when the tonsils and adenoids are large compared to the throat.
OSA is also more prevalent in obese children.

Consequences of not treating sleep apnea may be harsh and involve slowing a child's growth and leading to high blood pressure.

The researchers followed 215 children, aged 18 months to 18 years who were referred to a pediatric sleep center. Thirty-seven percent of the children were obese and had an increased incidence of snoring.

The children’s neck size, in the sitting and neutral head position, was measured and apena-hypopnea index (AHI) and mean oxygen saturation values were used as indicators of the severity of the sleep-related breathing disorder.
Age-adjusted neck size correlated with body-mass index (BMI) and weight and showed a higher correlation with AHI than did BMI, weight or tonsil size. Neck size also showed a strong inverse correlation with mean oxygen saturation and was a better predictor of mean oxygen saturation than BMI, weight or tonsil size.

At the end of the study, the researchers reported that children of any age with bigger neck sizes for their age should be queried about snoring, apnea, excessive sleepiness and hyperactivity. Physicians should also use the neck size in the clinical evaluations of children with a history of snoring and apnea.