Mouth Exercises for Snoring

We know that getting some exercise can help us lose weight which is a great way to tackle snoring. Increasingly, we are seeing that exercise to help snoring needn’t involve running, cycling or swimming, or even breaking a sweat.

More people are turning to mouth, tongue and throat exercises to take control of their snoring and are seeing amazing results.

Jump to: five anti-snoring exercises that really work

How do these exercises work?

Snoring is caused by slack tissue in your airway increasing resistance to air passing through [1]. Anti-snoring exercises aim to tone up this slackened tissue, treating the root cause of snoring.

Low muscle tone causes snoring

Our tongues and muscles in the thoat naturally relax when we sleep. Snoring happens when this relaxation becomes too much and the tissues start to flap, or when the tongue falls back and its base obstructs airflow.

When these muscles are weak, the chance of snoring is much higher. Muscle tone diminishes with age which explains why older people are more likely to snore.

Exercises vs. snoring aids

Wearing various remedies can tighten this tissue or hold things in place. But to keep snoring away, you’ll always rely on these appliances.

Anti-snoring exercises tone these tissues, stop them collapsing and prevent them from flapping.

You can train yourself into sleeping more quietly without having to wear an anti-snoring appliance ever again!

There are snoring aids on the market with very little science to back them up. The same is not true for anti-snoring exercises. There’s plenty of evidence and it all looks rather encouraging [2].

The evidence – music lessons

In 2000, researchers investigated whether you could reduce snoring with singing. A drama therapist from the University of Exeter in the UK developed a series of singing exercises for a group of twenty snorers [3].

The group sung these songs for twenty minutes a day for three months. The singing they did wasn’t your typical tune you might hum to yourself, but focused more on projecting strong vowel sounds with big exaggerated mouth movements.

It sounds more like yodeling, is rather bizarre, but it works. Comparing the participants’ snoring recordings before and after the study, the researchers saw a big drop in snoring.

In a different study six years later, twenty-five patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnea were signed up for didgeridoo lessons. Fourteen received tuition and did practice at home every day for four months. The other eleven – the control group – were put on a waiting list and carried on as normal.

Playing the didgeridoo is hard and requires strong mouth, tongue and throat muscles. At the end of the four months, the group who played the instrument showed some promising results improvements to their snoring [4]:

  • They were less sleepy throughout the day.
  • Their sleep apnea episodes reduced. Patients had a lower apnea/hypopnea index, 6.2 points fewer than the control group.
  • Their partners reported feeling less disturbed at night.

The evidence – targeted exercises

Didgeridoos and didgeridoo teachers are not easy to come by, and not everybody wants to walk around yodeling. Researchers took the concepts of these practices and created a series of exercises that target the snoring muscles of the tongue, soft palate and throat.

Guimaraes et al

In 2007, a group of scientists in Brazil performed the largest snoring exercise study to date [5]. The study design was robust, randomizing thirty-one different patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnea into two groups.

Each group was under the impression that they were receiving an amazing new anti-snoring therapy (important to ensure that any improvements are not due to the “placebo effect”), but only 16 were given the anti-snoring exercises. The other fifteen were a control group, given “sham therapy” which entailed a series of breathing exercises.

Each group attended supervised sessions for thirty minutes once a week and were told to do their exercises every day at home too.

Whilst the control group did ineffectual deep breathing, the test group followed an exercise regime involving the tongue, soft palate and walls of the throat. Exercises involved sucking, swallowing, chewing, breathing and speaking.

After three months, those doing the exercises had markedly improved their sleep apnea. They:

  • Reduced the severity of their sleep apnea. AHI on average dropped by 39% compared to no change in the control group.
  • Snored less frequently and less loudly
  • Had better sleep quality
  • Experienced less sleepiness during the daytime
  • Had improved oxygen saturation during sleep apnea episodes

Other studies

Further studies highlighted that thirty minutes every day is quite a long time, and realistically, people were unlikely to do this under their own steam. Merely brushing our teeth twice a day for two minutes is something that one in four of us struggle with [6]!

Researchers started to focus on shorter regimes, using similar exercises for only eight minutes per day. These patients still significantly decreased their snoring volume by 60%, improved their sleep quality and made their partners feel less disturbed [7].

Overall, the studies have strongly shown that [2]:

  • Anti-snoring exercise therapy reduces sleep apnea severity by 50%.
  • Exercises also reduce normal snoring, both objectively and subjectively. Snorers’ partners feel less disturbed and both the frequency and volume of snoring is decreased.
  • Sleepiness improves with consistent anti-snoring exercises.
  • Exercise regimes needn’t be long. As little as forty minutes per week can have a positive impact.

Five anti-snoring exercises that really work

One doctor, a massive advocate of anti-snoring exercises and the professed “patron saint of snorers” describes these exercises as yoga for your mouth with a focus on stretching and positional training [1].

The exercises favor quicker, sharp repetitions as opposed to long holds, which can instead add muscular bulk and make matters worse.

Different studies have used different techniques, but here are five of the key exercises that appear in most experiments and can really make a difference:

  1. Tongue curlers. With your mouth open, slide the tip of your tongue backwards along your hard palate as far back as it will go. Repeat 20 times.
  2. With an open mouth, press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth and suck it upwards. Hold for 2 seconds and repeat 20 times.
  3. Force the back of your tongue against the floor of your mouth whilst the tip remains in contact with your lower front teeth. Again, you should do this with an open mouth.
  4. Pull your cheek out with your finger, use your cheek/mouth muscles to pull the finger back in.
  5. Elevate the back of your throat by sounding and sounding “aahh”. Once you get better at this exercise, you should be able to raise your uvula (the dangling part in the back of your throat) without making a sound.

You are unlikely to see instant results. These exercises are most effective when performed daily and stuck to over a period of time. Remember, you don’t need to spend ages on your routine, as little as eight minutes has shown to still be very effective [7].

To give yourself the best chance of success, set aside a time in the day to do these exercises. Also try to do them in private as you may look and feel a little strange. With some practice you will get better at the exercises and will start to notice the difference.

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References

  1. Dilkes M and Adams A. Stop snoring the easy way and the real reasons you need to. Hachette UK 2017.
  2. Macario C, et al. Oropharyngeal and tongue exercises (myofunctional therapy) for snoring: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep 2015; 38(5): 669-675. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-017-4848-5
  3. Ojay A and Ernst E. Can Singing Exercises Reduce Snoring? A Pilot Study. Complementary Therapy Medicine 2000; 8: 151-156. https://doi.org/10.1054/ctim.2000.0376
  4. Puhan MA, et al. Didgeridoo playing as an alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal 2006; 332(7536): 266-270. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360393/
  5. Guimaraes KC, et al. Effects of Oropharyngeal Exercises on Patients with Moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2009; 179(10): 962-966. https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.200806-981OC
  6. YouGov (2016). Consumer Oral Health Survey 2016. [online] Available at: http://www.denplan.co.uk/~/media/Denplan/files/pdfs/companies/2016/cam1788-consumer-oral-health-survey-2016_low-res.pdf [Accessed 23 Oct, 2018]
  7. Ieto V, et al. Effects of Oropharyngeal Exercises on Snoring. Chest 2015; 148(3): 683-691. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.14-2953

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