Sex differences in the association of regional fat distribution with the severity of obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep. 2010 Apr;33(4):467-74. doi: 10.1093/sleep/33.4.467.


Study objectives: To describe sex differences in the associations between severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and measures of obesity in body regions defined using both dual-energy absorptiometry and traditional anthropometric measures in a sleep-clinic sample.

Design: A prospective case-series observational study.

Setting: The Western Australian Sleep Health Study operating out of the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Sleep Clinic, Perth, Western Australia.

Participants: Newly referred clinic patients (60 men, 36 women) suspected of having OSA.

Interventions: N/A.

Measurements and results: Obstructive sleep apnea severity was defined by apnea-hypopnoea index from laboratory-based overnight polysomnography. Body mass index, neck, waist and hip circumference, neck-to-waist ratio, and waist-to-hip ratio were measured. Dual energy absorptiometry measurements included percentage fat and lean tissue. Multivariate regression models for each sex were developed. In women, percentage of fat in the neck region and body mass index together explained 33% of the variance in apnea-hypopnea index. In men, percentage of fat in the abdominal region and neck-to-waist ratio together accounted for 37% of the variance in apnea-hypopnea index.

Conclusions: Regional obesity is associated with obstructive sleep apnea severity, although differently in men and women. In women, a direct influence of neck fat on the upper airway patency is implicated. In men, abdominal obesity appears to be the predominant influence. The apnea-hypopnea index was best predicted by a combination of Dual Energy Absorptiometry-measured mass and traditional anthropometric measurements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / methods
  • Absorptiometry, Photon / statistics & numerical data
  • Adipose Tissue
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Australia
  • Body Fat Distribution / methods*
  • Body Fat Distribution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck / diagnostic imaging
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Polysomnography / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography, Abdominal / methods
  • Radiography, Abdominal / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications*
  • Waist-Hip Ratio