Exercises to Reduce Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring and sleep apnea can significantly disrupt sleep and cause daytime fatigue and health problems. While CPAP machines are often used to treat sleep apnea, there are exercises that can help strengthen and tone the muscles of the throat and tongue to reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. This article provides instructions for tongue, mouth, and throat exercises to try at home.

Background on Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring occurs when air passes through a narrowed airway, causing the tissues of the throat to vibrate audibly during sleep. It can disrupt the snorer’s sleep as well as their bed partner’s.

Sleep apnea is a more severe condition where the airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, causing breathing to stop temporarily. This results in poor sleep quality, low oxygen levels, and daytime sleepiness. There are two main types of sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea where the airway is blocked by soft tissue, and central sleep apnea where the brain doesn’t send proper signals to breathe.

Benefits of Oral Exercises

Oral exercises can help strengthen and tone the muscles of the tongue, soft palate, uvula, and throat. This can widen the airway and prevent the tissues from collapsing and obstructing breathing during sleep. Studies show oral exercises can reduce snoring frequency and intensity as well as sleep apnea severity.

A key benefit of these exercises is they have minimal side effects and risks compared to other snoring and sleep apnea treatments like CPAP machines or surgery. They simply require consistent practice and dedication to perform regularly. Oral exercises may be recommended by doctors along with other lifestyle changes like losing weight and sleeping on your side.

Instructions for 5 Key Tongue and Throat Exercises

Perform these 5 exercises daily, holding each position for 5 seconds and repeating 3-10 times per exercise. Over time, increase the number of repetitions as the muscles get stronger.

1. Tongue Stretches

This exercise stretches and tones the tongue muscle. There are two options:

  • Stick tongue out – Push tongue out of mouth as far as possible, either straight out or trying to touch nose/chin. Hold 5 seconds.
  • Tongue roll – Roll tongue inward, curving sides upward or downward. Those with tongue-ties can try this alternative.

You can also use a spoon, pressing tongue against the spoon.

2. Palate Sucks

Push entire tongue firmly against the roof of mouth and suck, holding for 5 seconds. Open mouth wider or look up to increase difficulty.

3. Tongue Side Pushes

Push tongue firmly into left or right cheek, pressing cheek outward with fingers to add resistance. Repeat on both sides.

4. Tongue Press Against Teeth

Press tip of tongue against front teeth then swallow while holding the position. Look up slightly to increase difficulty.

Additional Exercises

Once you’ve mastered the 5 key exercises, try these additional exercises for further strengthening:

  • Swallowing practice – Take a small sip of water and swallow normally. Repeat 5-10 times focusing on the swallowing motion.
  • Yawning – Open mouth wide and mimic a yawn. Feel the stretch in the throat and mouth. Repeat 5 times.
  • Chewing – Chew gum or food slowly and deliberately, focusing on chewing motions.
  • Vowel exercises – Say vowel sounds (A E I O U) out loud, holding each for 3-5 seconds and exaggerating the mouth positions.
  • Head lifts – Lie flat and lift head a few inches, holding for 5 seconds. Work up to sets of 10-15 repetitions. Strengthens tongue and neck muscles.
  • Falsetto humming – Hum tunes in a high-pitched, falsetto voice. The vibration tones the palate.

Tips for Effective Practice

  • Do the exercises consistently – it takes time to build muscle strength and coordination. Shoot for daily practice.
  • Focus on proper mouth and tongue positions. Posture is key.
  • Hold the stretches and positions for the recommended time. Avoid bouncing or moving through them quickly.
  • Start slow. Build up repetitions over time as it gets easier. Don’t overdo it.
  • Watch tutorials online if you need help with the mouth positions and movements.
  • Use a mirror to check form and see your mouth/throat positions.
  • Stay hydrated – drink water before and after exercising your mouth and throat.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

While oral exercises can help reduce snoring and mild sleep apnea, they aren’t effective for all severities of sleep disorders. See your doctor if you have:

  • Excessively loud snoring that disrupts your bed partner
  • Daytime fatigue, lack of energy, or sleepiness
  • Observed pauses in breathing during sleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Morning headaches

You may need evaluation for sleep apnea. Based on test results, your doctor may recommend continued oral exercises plus lifestyle changes, a custom oral appliance for the mouth, CPAP therapy, or surgery as treatment options. But oral exercises are still a helpful supportive therapy.

Tips for Oral Exercises

By performing these oral exercises regularly, you can strengthen your tongue, soft palate, throat, and neck muscles. This can help widen your airway, tone the tissues, and reduce collapsing that contributes to snoring and sleep apnea.

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