Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that stops the flow of oxygen to the body during sleep. It is generally provoked by the soft tissue in the rear of the throat relaxing, causing a blockage. Sometimes sleep apnea occurs because the brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Some sufferers may even experience a combination of the two. Although airway devices are available and surgery can be a viable option for some, recent studies have shown certain exercises performed at home can be an effective treatment as well.
Practice oropharyngeal or throat exercises. In the February 2009 issue of "The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine," Geraldo Lorenzi-Filho, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Sao Paulo Brazil Medical School, states that sleep Apnea symptoms may be reduced by 39 percent when throat exercises are performed daily. Patients reporting less snoring and daytime sleepiness and improved sleep quality as a result of the exercises used throughout the three-month study.
Stimulate your soft palate. This oropharyngeal or throat exercise is commonly practiced in speech therapy and was designed to improve the functionality and control of your breathing during sleep. This exercise involves pronouncing an oral vowel, where the air escapes exclusively through the mouth. Try to alternate and continuously repeat these vowels for three minutes everyday. Examples of oral vowels include words such as cool, kill, coal, coil, kale, keel, and car.
Perform tongue exercises for three minutes throughout the day. 1) brush the superior and lateral surfaces of the tongue while the tongue is positioned on the floor of the mouth. 2) place the tip of the tongue against the front of the palate and slide the tongue backward. 3) force your tongue upward pressing the entire tongue against the palate. 4) force the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping contact with your bottom row of teeth.
Practice speaking open vowels for three minutes throughout day. This exercise involves pronouncing open vowels while breathing in though your nose and expiring though the mouth. These are words that have a long vowel sound at the end, such as, bee, tree, fly, and cry.
Inflate a rubber balloon. Perform this oropharyngeal exercise while in a seated position. Inflate the balloon using five deep breathes without taking the balloon out of your mouth. This breathing control exercise reinforces the process of airflow moving properly through your nose during sleep, helping to avoid soft tissue in the throat from relaxing, causing a disturbance.
Tips and Tricks
Lose the extra pounds. Sleep apnea may be cured in some cases when excess pounds are lost and the sufferer returns to a healthy weight.
Sleep on your side. Maintain the side lying position to prevent the tongue and soft palate from possibly sliding back, causing an air-way blockage.
Try not to drink at night. Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills, since they tend to relax the muscles in the back of your throat which can interfere with your breathing rhythm.
Chew your food on both sides of your mouth. When eating, practice alternating bilateral chewing or using both sides of the mouth. Keep your tongue on the palate while trying to avoid opening your mouth during chewing. This technique is designed to reinforce the functionality and movement of the tongue and jaw, which can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
Play the Didgeridoo. According to a 2005 study conducted by team of physicians in Zurich, Switzerland, playing the Didgeridoo 6 days a week for about 25 minutes each time has been shown to reduce moderate sleep apnea symptoms. Occurrences were significantly reduced after four months of playing, which may likely be attributed to stronger muscles supporting the soft tissue, such as the uvula, tonsils and the tongue.