Mouth & Throat Exercises
Holistic & Alternative Approaches to Sleep Apnea Relief
Seeking relief for your sleep apnea can be a frustrating process, but there are many ways to reduce the symptoms. Dr. Wes Yemoto offers both traditional and holistic types of sleep apnea care. In addition to the treatments listed on this site, there are also mouth and throat exercises that can help you manage your sleep apnea.
According to a 2009 study, patients who practiced daily breathing exercises saw a 39% reduction in the severity of their symptoms, on average. Furthermore, they can also help with secondary symptoms, such as headaches, heartburn, and TMJ pain.
How do These Mouth & Throat Exercises Work?
Sleep apnea occurs when air is restricted from flowing at some point in the patient’s airway. Two reasons this can occur are because the throat muscles collapse or the tongue falls to the back of your throat while you’re sleeping.
There are a variety of oral exercises that can help strengthen your throat and mouth muscles. This is called myofunctional therapy, and these exercises focus on the oropharynx. They’ll help your muscles function properly in order to reduce sleep apnea symptoms. It’s recommended that you perform these oral exercises for 30 minutes a day to see an improvement in your sleep patterns.
Exercises You Can Try Right Away
Despite the name, there’s no yelling involved in this exercise.
This exercise involves opening your mouth as wide as possible, as if you were impersonating a roaring tiger, and subsequently sticking your tongue out past your teeth. You’ll then try to reach your tongue to your chin.
By lifting the uvula, a fleshy extension at the back of the soft palate which hangs above the throat, you’re making the throat’s back wall muscles stronger. Hold the position for five seconds and repeat 10 times.
Have you ever tried to touch your nose with your tongue?
This exercise requires you to reach your tongue as far as it can go to your nose. Hold this position for five seconds, and for two sets of ten.
Pretend you can touch your nose and stick out your tongue, stretching it upwards toward the nose. Hold the position for 5 seconds. Do two sets of 10.
The aforementioned 2009 study that found an average of 39% reduction in OSA symptoms focused on the role of the tongue, which often collapses back into the throat. Since your tongue can fall back into your throat and block your airway while you sleep, tongue exercises can help strengthen your tongue so it stays in place.
Soft Palate Stretches and Breathing
It’s important that the soft palate, also known as the roof of your mouth, is strengthened in order to treat sleep apnea. Here’s two exercises you can try:
- Open your mouth as wide as you can, as if you were saying ‘ah.’ Hold it for 20 seconds, close your mouth and relax. Repeat 10 times.
- Breathe in through your nose, close the mouth, and exhale through your lips. You should feel a bit of push back from your throat.
Relieving Tension in the Jaw
Jaw pain can be a symptom of sleep apnea. Certainly, patients with jaw deformities or TMJ can suffer from a higher likelihood of OSA. And those who suffer from OSA can attest to the tension it can create in the jaw, which is reflexively clamping down to protect the airway opening while you sleep.
You can exercise your jaw to relieve this tension and discomfort.
Begin by closing your mouth and relaxing your tongue. Then, reach your tongue up until it touches the roof of the mouth and slide the tip of the tongue as far back as you can. You should feel your soft palate as you move your tongue back.
When the tongue is in its farthest position, slowly open your mouth just up to the point where you can barely hold your tongue against the roof. Hold it for 5 to 10 seconds, then repeat for 5 minutes.
Dr. Yemoto is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. If you have questions about these exercises or you’d like to find out more about the sleep apnea care we offer, just give us a call. It’s time to start getting a restful night’s sleep every night.