Do you struggle with sleep apnea and find yourself constantly feeling tired during the day? Did you know that there are tongue and throat exercises that can help alleviate your symptoms and improve obstructive sleep apnea?
While there are various treatment options available for sleep apnea, some people prefer natural remedies like these exercises.
If you’re looking for a non-invasive and cost-effective way to improve your sleep apnea, tongue and throat exercises may be worth considering. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most effective exercises that can help strengthen the muscles in your mouth and throat, reduce snoring, and improve your breathing during sleep. By incorporating these exercises into your daily routine, you may be able to get a better night’s sleep, wake up feeling more refreshed and energized, and reduce obstructive sleep apnea symptoms overall.
The proper term for tongue and throat exercises is called myofunctional therapy. It is an effective use of exercises that focus on strengthening and improving the muscles in the mouth, face, throat, and airway. Research shows that when regularly practiced, these exercises may reduce snoring and help strengthen facial and throat muscles.
This can be especially helpful for people who have obstructive sleep apnea or other breathing-related problems. Myofunctional therapy is also known as orofacial myofunctional therapy, oropharyngeal exercises, upper airway exercises, or mouth and throat exercises. Dentists, ENTs, speech pathologists, and sleep specialists usually have training in this type of therapy.
If your doctor believes you may benefit from myofunctional therapy, they might refer you to a specialist who can create a personalized plan of exercises tailored to your specific needs. Depending on what type of difficulty you are being treated for, the types of exercises used could range from mouth exercises to tongue, throat, nose and swallowing exercises.
Each client’s case is unique so it’s important to work with a professional who can customize a treatment plan depending on individual needs. When followed closely with regular practice over time, myofunctional therapy can often lead to successful relief or improved wellness outcomes by providing muscular strength and balance to the tongue, neck, and airway muscles.
What are the tongue exercises for sleep apnea?
Tongue Slide – First place the tip of your tongue against the back of your top front teeth. Then slowly slide your tongue backward with the tip moving along the roof of your mouth. Doing this motion 5-10 times can help strengthen your tongue and throat muscles.
Tongue Stretch – Start by sticking your tongue out as far as you can reach, making sure that your chin is up towards the ceiling. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and then relax your tongue back into a resting state. Gradually increase the amount of time you hold this stretch; eventually reaching 30 seconds or more. Complete the exercise 5 times. This will increase tongue strength.
Tongue Aerobics – Stick your tongue out as far as you can like the tongue stretch, instead stretch it toward your nose and hold for 10 seconds. Then, toward your chin and hold for 10 seconds. Then, to the left for 10 seconds and again to the right for 10 seconds. Repeat this 10 times.
Tongue Push Up – Press your entire tongue against the roof of your mouth for 10 seconds and repeat this 5 times. When performing these exercises, you should focus on actively engaging all of the muscles in your tongue, pushing your tongue up towards the hard palate as firmly as possible. This will strengthen the tongue and improve tone of the muscles that control it.
Tongue Push Down – Start by putting the tip of your tongue against your lower front teeth. Then, push the back of your tongue down flat against the floor of your mouth, holding it there for 10 seconds before releasing it. Repeat this exercise 5 times for best results. This will improve tongue and soft palate tone and strength.
What are the throat exercises for sleep apnea?
Singing – This type of exercise focuses on building stamina and muscular control. Common warm ups include scales, arpeggios, lip trills, and tongue twisters to help improve breath control and articulation skills which are both beneficial for vocal performance and allowing your voice to remain strong over long periods of time. Practicing these exercises on a regular basis will help to strengthen the throat muscles and improve your ability to control them.
Humming – Humming is another exercise that can be used to help build strength in the throat muscles. To do this exercise, take a deep breath in and then hum for the duration of the breath while ranging your hum from high to low sounds and vice versa. This will exercise your vocal cords through vibration which will help to strengthen those muscles over time.
Pronouncing – This can be done by pronouncing vowel sounds such as a-e-i-o-u in an exaggerated manner. Doing this on a daily basis can significantly boost the strength of your vocal cords since you will be practicing proper diction and resonance with each sound. Additionally, taking time each day to draw out the vowels so that they last several seconds can also be beneficial. It’s important to remember that proper pronunciation should come before trying to extend the length of the sound. Repeat each vowel 10-20 times before moving on to the next.
Swallowing – The main purpose of this exercise is to help improve the strength and coordination of the muscles needed for swallowing. To begin, take a sip of water and practice contracting your throat muscles to swallow, repeating this process 10 times. Chewing gum is also a great way to keep your throat muscles working over and over again without even realizing your are swallowing most of the time.
What are the facial exercises for sleep apnea?
Lip Purse – Start by pursing your lips as hard as you can as if you are about to kiss someone. Hold the purse for five seconds before releasing it. After that, repeat the exercise 10 times with a few seconds rest in between each repetition. Doing this exercise regularly can help to strengthen the muscles in your face and jaw, which can lead to improved airway function.
Cheek Hook – Place your index fingers into your cheek inside of your mouth on both sides. Gently pull outwards on the inner cheek with your fingers. While pulling, clinch your cheek muscles. Release after the five seconds are up and repeat 10 times.
Facial Massage – Gently massage the facial muscles around your eyes, forehead, cheeks, and jaw with your fingertips for a few minutes each day. This kind of massage can help to relax the muscles and increase blood flow which can lead to improved airway function. It is also important to pay special attention to any areas that may be tight or tense as this can be an indication of a problem area.
Side-to-Side Jaw Movement – The goal is to move your lower jaw slowly from side to side while adjusting the size of the opening of your mouth. Start by opening your mouth fully open then move you jaw side-to-side while slowly closing your mouth and reopening. Repeat this through 10 opening and mouth closings.
What are the nose breathing exercises for sleep apnea?
Alternate Nostril Breathing – This exercise involves alternating the inhalation and exhalation of air through each nostril. To begin, close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale deeply through your left nostril. Then, switch and close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the opposite one. Repeat this process for a few minutes each day. If one nostril seems blocked more than the other then the next step may help.
Nasal Flushing – This can help to clear out the nasal passages and open up the airways in order to improve breathing during sleep. To start, fill a neti pot or some sort of sinus rinse bottle with lukewarm water and add one teaspoon of salt before stirring. Next, tilt your head over a sink and insert the spout of the neti pot into one nostril. With your head tilted slightly forward, squirt the water into your nostril with enough pressure that it leaks out the other nostril. You should also feel the water slightly go down your throat. If it doesn’t, your head is tilted forward too far. Do this again for the other nostril. This should help clear your nasal passages and sinuses.
Nasal Breathing – Taking deep breaths through your nose can help to relax the muscles in your throat and promote better breathing during sleep. Sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes, and inhale deeply through your nose for four seconds, hold for 4 seconds, before slowly exhaling through your nose for over six seconds. Repeat this process 10 times or until you feel relaxed.
How often should you do tongue and throat exercises?
Studies suggest that individuals should perform upper airway exercises 8-30 minutes a day for at least 3 months to foster long-term improvement.
Completing these exercises every day encourages strong airway flexibility, and over time, can help decrease mild symptoms of sleep apnea.
Are there side effects to tongue and throat exercises?
There are no known side effects to doing myofunctional related exercises. Rather, many people will assume or think that tongue and throat exercises are silly or do not work. Though, research shows they can actually help some people suffering from sleep apnea and snoring.
The only side effect that could be possibly presumed by doing these exercises is if someone were to stop prescribed sleep apnea treatment and depend on these exercises solely. This would more than likely result in having health risks as a result of stopping treatment, not the exercises.
Tongue and throat exercises can be a helpful tool for individuals who suffer from mild symptoms of sleep apnea. Through tongue, throat, facial, and nose exercises, the muscles in the upper airway can become stronger. This can possibly reduce the chances for obstruction, leading to improved airway function during sleep.
It is important to note that these exercises should be done for at least 8-30 minutes a day, for over 3 months to ensure long-term improvement. There are no known side effects of doing these exercises, but it is important to note that they should not be used as a replacement for prescribed sleep apnea treatment.