Healthy Sleeping Habits

‘I’m a Sleep Expert, and These 4 Throat and Mouth Exercises May Ease Snoring’

Photo: Getty Images / Moyo Studio
There are myriad factors that affect the quality of sleep someone gets—and whether or not they snore is one such factor. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, an estimated 45 percent of adults snore occasionally, while 25 percent snore regularly. The reason these folks (and also those who sleep around them) may experience sleep disturbances is because snoring is reflective of something restricting a person’s airflow during sleep. Because of this, snorers may wake themselves (or others) up in the middle of the night. Some good news, though: Sleep experts say there are a few throat and mouth exercises that help reduce snoring and the associated sleep disturbances it can carry.

But before getting into possible strategies for easing a snoring issue, experts also say that folks who snore should first get screened for sleep apnea—a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts—as snoring is one of the main symptoms. “I'm not saying that everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea [OSA], but you definitely have to rule it out before you start just addressing the snoring itself,” says Raj Dasgupta, MD, FAASM, sleep expert and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Even if you don’t snore or have sleep apnea, though, Dr. Raj says you can still use the below throat and mouth exercises to reduce snoring to better breathe through your nose during sleep (to prevent your mouth from being dry in the morning), or if you want up your sleep game in general. But also, don't expect an overnight improvement. “If you're going to do these things, it's important to realize that they’re not a quick fix,” says Dr. Dasgupta. While there may not be scientific studies to support how long these activities should be performed, Dr. Dasgupta recommends doing these exercises “between 10 and 20 minutes a day, for two to three months” because—like with any exercise—consistency is key.

And why, you may wonder, would throat and mouth exercises, in particular, help anyway? “When we talk about snoring…we're talking about the tissues in the back of the mouth. And when we're snoring, those tissues in and around the back of the mouth relax and become very floppy.” The floppy tissue creates vibrations as people breathe while they’re asleep, and those vibrations are what cause snoring. Keep reading to learn four expert-recommended exercises that tone those floppy tissues. And if you have a persistent snoring issue (or suspect you may have OSA), seek the care of a certified sleep specialist, who can work with you on a personalized care plan.

4 exercises that may help reduce snoring, according to sleep experts

1. Practicing myofunctional therapy

According to sleep expert for nasal hygiene company Xlear, Steven Olmos, DDS, whose medical focus includes how the airway is a critical component of sleep issues, myofunctional therapy can help decrease snoring. Myofunctional therapy is similar to physical therapy exercises, but limited to face, tongue, and mouth exercises to stimulate those specific muscles. Dr. Dasgupta says this form of therapy may strengthen the loose tissue in the back of the mouth.

To try it, seek the help of a trained and accredited professional in order for the therapy be most effective, adds Dr. Olmos.

2. Pronouncing vowels repeatedly

Making different vowel sounds requires you to engage the muscles in your throat, so being intentional in repeating these sounds can, in turn, help strengthen those muscles. This results in less of the floppy, snore-causing tissue to which Dr. Dasgupta refers as being an obstacle in the way of you and snore-free sleep.

3. Singing

Singing activates the muscles in your throat, soft palate, and tongue, says Dr. Olmos. You might belt out your favorite power ballad on the daily as a ritual to help curb your snoring, but that's not the only way your pipes can help you with your snooze game. Dr. Olmos also suggests Singing for Snorers, which is a series of singing exercises “to tone the throat and reduce snoring.”

4. Playing the didgeridoo

The didgeridoo is small wind instrument played with the lips, which “ has been found to reduce or eliminate OSA and snoring,” says Dr. Olmos.

It’s worth noting that research Dr. Olmos references is a very small study of only 25 people. But, it did also crucially find that “regular didgeridoo playing is an effective treatment alternative well accepted by patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome,” which may be attributed “to training of the muscles of the upper airways, which control airway dilation and wall stiffening.” So, perhaps consider it a reason to give playing a wind instrument a shot.

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