A new study finds an intriguing link between obstructive sleep apnea and your legs. That’s right, your legs.
The study reports that sitting for long periods of the day causes fluid to accumulate in your legs. When you lie down in bed at night, the fluid then shifts from the legs to the neck. The excess fluid in the neck reduces the size of the upper airway. This makes it easier for soft tissue in the neck to collapse and block the airway.
The study involved 23 healthy men who were suspected of having sleep apnea. None of the men were obese. Researchers measured the changes in their leg fluid volume and neck size from the beginning to the end of the night. They also recorded how much time the participants spent sitting during the previous day.
Results show that overnight changes in leg fluid volume and neck size are independently linked to the severity of sleep apnea. The study provides one explanation for why some people may have sleep apnea even though they are not obese.
The results also provide extra motivation for people with sleep apnea to get more exercise. Get up from your desk and get your legs moving to prevent fluid buildup.