Editor’s note:- We recommend The Sleep Apnea Exercises Program by P. Jafari, as the best alternative to cpap machines and most comprehensive exercise program to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
There are a lot of ways to address sleep apnea symptoms. For the more severe cases of symptoms like loud and constant snoring, high number and long periods of breath interruptions, depression and extreme case of EDS or daytime sleepiness, would call for a more drastic means of intervention.
This could be in the form of CPAP treatment or a surgical operation. Though sometimes costly, painful or destructive both the CPAP and sleep apnea surgery offer quick resolution to these symptoms.
For mild and moderate cases, there are sleep apnea exercises designed to ease breathing and reduce snoring. These exercise regimens aim to firm throat and tongue muscles, thus, eliminating tissue slacking during sleep that blocks the air passage. Like any exercises though, this don’t give immediate results. The improvement is gradual, depending on the consistency of the exercise and the severity of the sleep apnea symptoms.
The primary aim of such exercises is to tone and strengthen the otolaryngologic muscles that belong to the throat, nose and mouth. These include singing, playing the didgeridoo, exercises for the jaw, chewing gum, yawning, yoga, etc.
While there are specific work-out programs for different locations of breathing muscles, selection is totally based on which of these muscles need toning. The best person to take a decision in this matter is the doctor who is treating the condition.
However, one must have realistic expectations from such efforts as they alone cannot help in recovering from the condition.
They have to be done regularly, according to medical instructions for at least 3 months before any visible improvement of the condition is perceived. They are meant to be complementary to the mainline therapy.
Throat exercises for sleep apnea:
• Chewing gum exercise – Pretend you’re chewing a gum. Make sure that your molars are moving. Your mouth should stay closed. Begin with few minutes of chewing, and gradually increase duration. Adding “mmm” sounds to your chewing will help in opening the throat wider.
• Yawning exercise – Simulate a yawn and make sure to open your mouth as wide as you can. You can also trust your tongue as far as it goes.
• Vowel exercise – Recite the vowel sounds, fast and as clearly as your can for 3-5minutes. Start the exercise routine with soft sounds and then increase the level of your voice gradually. You can end the exercise shouting.
• Singing exercises – Just take your favorite song and sing your heart out.
• Swallowing exercises – Lightly bit your tongue, and then rapidly swallow at least five times.
Tongue exercises for sleep apnea:
• Palate push – Touch the back of your front teeth with the tip of your tongue then slowly roll it over, backwards.
• Lip route – Lick both your upper and lower lips in a continuous rotating motion. Do several clockwise rounds, and then do the same going counter clockwise.
• Tongue out – Stick out your tongue, the farthest you can. Hold it for several seconds. Pull back, breath and repeat.
• Tsk tsk sounds – Again, place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth. Make rapid tsk tsk sounds for at least a minute. Relax and then repeat.
• Tongue Rove – Quickly run your tongue all over the inside of your mouth. Skim over the fronts of your teeth and then both the roof and base of your mouth.
Jaw exercises for sleep apnea:
• Jaw stick – Clinch a pencil or a stick between your teeth for at least 10 minutes or as long as you can, just before going to sleep.
• Jaw swing – Position your lower jaw as far right as you can, hold for at least 30 seconds. Then swing to the right, hold again for another 30 seconds. Repeat.
There are also other sleep apnea exercise to help reduce if not eliminate sleep apnea symptoms.
Yoga Nidra is a yoga regimen designed to help breathing and relaxation for better sleep. Again, results are not overnight as it takes time to strengthen muscles and firm tissues. The key to a successful exercise program is commitment and consistency.
Soft palate blowing
Here’s an example of an exercise that has been proven to significantly reduce sleep apnea: it’s called “soft palate blowing”.
The steps to do soft palate blowing are as follows:
- Inhale air through your nose.
- Exhale via your mouth. As you exhale press your lips together. This action forms a resistance.
- When you exhale tighten your abdomen.
- Maintain the blowing for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 10 times
A balloon can also be used for this exercise. Blow into a balloon with your mouth; after each outward breath, stop and remove the balloon; then breathe in deeply through the nose. Then blow into the balloon again, following the steps I just described.
These exercises will not cure central sleep apnea (because central sleep apnea is a neurological disorder, which cannot be solved through exercises of the mouth, tongue, and throat).
But these exercises have been proven to work on a range of people with obstructive sleep apnea (and problems snoring).
Here’s how to tell if these exercises will work for you:-
- Your sleep apnea is caused by flabby throat tissue, or a large, thick tongue
- If you have flabby throat tissue or a large tongue, orofacial exercises will strengthen up the muscles in all the necessary areas – which means your airway will stop collapsing while you’re asleep.
- You have a neck size that exceeds 16 inches and/or a body mass index (BMI) that exceeds 25.
Singing therapy is a special kind of sleep apnea exercise that aims to strengthen your lax muscles and soft tissues inside your throat. Those muscles tend to collapse together when you’re sleeping. And it’s the main reason why you have sleep apnea episodes.
As you know, obstructive sleep apnea is a unique sleep disorder that is always accompanied with snoring. People with obstructed airways usually produce “unbearable” noises during bed time. However, it’s not true to say when a person snores, he’s having obstructive apnea.
Singing therapy was originally developed to help people with simple snoring improve their conditions. Recently, many clinical experiments have been developed and found out positive results when it comes to treating obstructive apnea.
The way singing exercise works is it will “tone” the weak muscles inside your throat thus preventing them from blocking your airway while sleeping. This one and other throat exercises focus solely on the muscles of your soft palate especially the vocal chords – the strongest muscles inside your throat.
When you take any throat exercise such as singing exercise, you will impact your vocal chords at different levels. And with different types of exercises, you will strengthen different locations of lax muscles inside your throat thus preventing them from falling together.
But that also means NOT every type of singing can help! In fact, there are specific types of exercises that will produce significant improvement whereas others will do almost nothing.
So, when you hear about “singing therapy,” DON’T expect to sing a beautiful song and you will improve your apnea condition. All of these exercises involve stressing on some specific sounds and taking some mouth and neck exercises to strengthen specific locations inside your throat.
And there is a note you should take: this therapy requires patient and time. It’s not an “overnight” process..