How Do These Exercises Cure Sleep Apnea and Snoring?
The main reason people do exercises for obstructive sleep apnea is to build and strengthen the muscles located around their airway.
When the muscles around the airway are strengthened, your throat stays open when you fall asleep. So by doing these exercises, the airway is a lot less likely to completely collapse and become blocked off during sleep.
So what kinds of exercises strengthen the airway?
Here are the main categories of exercises, for each body area:
Many people don’t realize that the tongue is a muscle. If the tongue becomes weak it can drop into the throat, causing an airway blockage. Tongue exercises assist in building the tongue’s tone and strength.
A tense jaw can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. If the jaw is tight it can place pressure directly on the breathing passages. Jaw exercises will help to loosen and relax the jaw muscles.
Weakened throat muscles can collapse during sleep, causing the airway to become blocked. Throat exercises help to build, tone and strengthen the throat muscles. The exercises also open the throat up more to prevent it closing upon sleep.
Soft Palate Exercises:
The soft palate muscles located around the base of the tongue relax during sleep. A weak soft palate can flap around and its tip can fall down onto the tongue. The soft palate exercises lift the soft palate up. The exercises also tone and strength the soft palate.
Four Sample Mouth & Throat Exercises You Can Do Right Now
Exercise #1: Tongue Slide
Purpose - to tone and strengthen the tongue and throat muscles.
Steps to Do The Tongue Slide Exercise:
- Looking straight ahead, position the tip of your tongue against the back of your top, front teeth.
- Slide your tongue backward.
- Repeat 10 times.
Exercise #2: Soft Palate Blowing
Purpose – to expand and enlarge the pharynx. The respiratory system is also being trained in this exercise.
Steps to Do the Soft Palate Blowing Exercise:
- 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
- Repeat 4 times a day.
A balloon can also be used for this exercise.
Steps to Do the Soft Palate Blowing Exercise (with a balloon):
- Inflate the balloon with your mouth
- Remove the balloon - and breathe in deeply through the nose
- Then continue to inflate the balloon with your mouth
- Remove the balloon - and breathe in deeply through the nose again
Exhaling via the mouth and inhaling via the nose, will assist with training the respiratory system.
Exercise #3: The Tiger Yell
(No actual yelling required! The action of opening your mouth wide mimics a tiger going to yell/roar). Best performed in front of a mirror.
Purpose – to exercise and strengthen all the muscles in the back of your throat.
Steps To Do the Tiger Yell Exercise:
- Open your mouth as wide as possible, and stick your tongue out in a downward position. Your tongue needs to be stuck out as far as it can be.
- The uvula, the small fleshy piece in the back of your throat, needs to be lifted upwards as you stick your tongue out.
- The mirror is used to ensure that you’re lifting the uvula up correctly. You’ll soon begin to sense that you’ve lifted it and won’t require the mirror.
- Hold the lifted uvula for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Exercise #4: Jaw Resist
Purpose – to exercise and strengthen the jaw muscles.
Steps to Do the Jaw Resist Exercise:
- Place one hand underneath your chin.
- Attempt to open your mouth. Your hand needs to push against your lower jaw. Your hand should be trying to stop your mouth from opening.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Repeat 2-4 times daily.
Who Are These Exercises Best For?
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 or excess throat tissue
- Your sleep apnea is caused by a large, thick tongue
- You have a neck size that exceeds 16 inches and/or a body mass index (BMI) that exceeds 25
If you're not sure if any these conditions apply to you, don't worry! Most cases of obstructive sleep apnea are caused by flabby or excess tissue in the throat (especially if you're overweight). So if you have obstructive sleep apnea, these exercises can probably help you.
Where's the Proof That These Exercises Work?
If you're like most people, you're probably thinking at this point: “these exercises seem so simple. How do I know they actually work?”
It’s a little-known fact that since 2007, there have been a number of scientific studies carried out on orofacial exercises (also called “oropharyngeal exercises”), to determine if these exercises are truly effective.
These studies have been carried out in the sleep laboratories of universities, and speech pathology clinics around the world.
Here's are just a few of the studies that have been conducted:
Oropharyngeal exercises can significantly reduce obstructive sleep apnea severity and symptoms. Oropharyngeal exercises are a very promising treatment for those with moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
Doing oropharyngeal exercises significantly decreases the severity of primary snoring. It is recommended that oropharyngeal exercises can be a therapeutic choice for patients with mild to moderate degrees of primary snoring
The results speak for themselves. This study has been conducted to prove what a lot of speech language pathologists already had an inclination of, anyway – oropharyngeal exercises can in fact help, if not cure, obstructive sleep apnea.
These exercises have also helped thousands of ordinary people eliminate their sleep apnea. Here's are two out of the many emails we've received:
My GP recommended a CPAP machine to begin with. I hated it and couldn’t sleep with it on. It felt very restricting.
I tried various other methods, even yoga! Then a friend mentioned they’d heard about a study regarding oropharyngeal exercises.
Desperate to be rid of the CPAP machine I went via my GP to a speech language pathologist and enquired about the exercises.
I started a routine of 8 exercises. I was instructed to do these 4 times daily, and in the initial week I noticed a difference.
I continued with them each day. Then I cut them down to twice daily. Now I do the routine just once a day.
Personally I wouldn’t stop them completely for fear of my obstructive sleep apnea returning to the same level that it was prior to the exercises.
I do still have the odd bad night and when that happens I simply up the routine for the following few days.
It did not take long, after doing the exercises you recommend, to strengthen my throat muscles, jaw, palate and to see results.
I was diagnosed (less than a year ago) with severe sleep apnea.
However, after reading your materials educating me on what OSA is, what its causes are, and what can be done about it, I sleep much better at night (pun intended).
Anyway, I have been doing the exercises (albeit inconsistently) and seeing results.
Imagine what can be done if (should be “when”) I’m consistently practicing these exercises!
I’m looking forward to whatever else you share in the future re: OSA. Thank you for what you do. I’m very grateful.
Here's What You Should Do Next:
- Do the 4 sample exercises for the next few days, and make a note of your progress.
- Watch your email inbox for more tips on how to get the most out of orofacial exercises
- Stay tuned for the next type of sleep apnea exercise (hint: you can do this exercise in the shower!)
Marc MacDonald, M.Sc.
Please don't hesitate to send me a message at my direct email address. I'll get back to you within 24 hours:
To your good health,