Snoring can place a strain on even the best of relationships. When a partner snores, it can make it difficult to sleep, with increasingly disrupted sleep resulting in daytime fatigue. People can become desperate for a good night’s sleep, to the extent they end up sleeping in separate rooms.
However, research has shown that mouth and throat exercises can help someone with a mild snore. The same exercises can also have a positive impact for someone with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
What Causes You to Snore?
When you sleep, the tissues of your airways and your tongue relax, with the space behind the tongue narrowing. As we breathe, the air moves over this relaxed tissue, generally without much of an audible sound. Snoring occurs when the tissues in the airways have become excessively floppy and they start to vibrate as the air flows over them.
Snoring is a major symptom of the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder sees the upper airways narrow to the point where breathing is interrupted. As the airways narrow and the throat muscles relax the risk of snoring increases.
The Benefits of Mouth and Throat Exercises
The benefits of mouth and throat exercises are they can help improve the tone of the muscle tissues in your airways. Just as you would look to improve muscle strength elsewhere in the body through targeted exercises, you can apply the same logic to your throat. In this case though you will not need a pricey gym membership or any additional fitness equipment at home.
These mouth and throat exercises are often referred to as ‘myofunctional therapy’. They involve exercises which impact the different parts of the airways, including the tongue, the adenoids, the tonsils and soft palate. Studies have shown that employing mouth and throat exercises to tone the muscles in the throat can prevent the tissues from becoming excessively floppy when relaxed overnight.
Toned muscle tissues are less likely to vibrate when air passes over them and can reduce the noise and impact of a mild snorer. The studies have shown that these sorts of exercises can also help those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
Types of Exercises
Two principal groups of exercises to assist you if you snore involve the tongue and facial muscles. Tongue exercises are designed to help strengthen the tongue as well as the soft palate and throat muscles. Examples include:
- The tongue slide – the tip of the tongue is placed on the back of the top row of the front teeth before sliding the tongue back against the roof of the mouth.
- The tongue stretch – the tongue is stuck out and then you try to touch your chin with your tongue while looking up at the ceiling, holding this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Tongue Pushups and Downs – the tongue is pressed against the roof of the mouth for the pushups, and against the lower teeth before pushing the back of the tongue down to the floor of the mouth for the push downs. Hold each position for 10 seconds.
These exercises can be performed in sets of 5 to 10 at a time.
Face exercises you can do include:
- Cheek hook – hook your finger to gently pull your cheek out before pulling your cheek back in using your facial muscles. Alternate between cheeks.
- Lip purse – Purse your lips so your mouth is tightly shut, before opening your mouth and relaxing your jaw and lips
These exercises also help improve muscle strength as well as jaw strength. Both can be performed 10 times on each occasion they are done.
Further Ways to Help Reduce Snoring
Singing or pronouncing the vowels can also help if you snore. By deliberately pronouncing different sounds when you sing -- or saying the vowels with increased emphasis as you move through them alphabetically -- you will exercise the different muscles in the throat.
Changing up the ways you pronounce the sounds or words can also be useful as part of the exercise.
Practicing breathing through the nostrils can also help stabilize the upper airways when you are asleep. As you inhale with the mouth closed, you block one nostril off with your knuckle and exhale through the other nostril. This can be done as a set of 10, alternating between the two nostrils.
How Often Should You Do Mouth and Throat Exercises?
It is important to remember that as with other muscle toning exercises results will not be immediate. However, studies suggest that those who persist with mouth and throat exercises should notice the benefits after around three months.
As a minimum/ you should be looking to exercise the mouth and throat for at least 10 minutes every day to reap the rewards. However, many people tend to perform the sets of exercises two to three times every day.
Can Everyone Benefit?
While many people who snore can look to benefit from mouth and throat exercises it is not a failsafe solution for everyone. The size and shape of a person’s tongue, throat or mouth could decrease the effectiveness of these type of exercises.
Alcohol and sedatives can also be the cause of snoring as they relax the muscles more, and such underlying reasons would need to be addressed before the exercises could have a true impact.
It is important to note that mouth and throat exercises should not be used in place of prescribed treatments. For those with obstructive sleep apnea these type of exercises have been seen to work best in conjunction with CPAP therapy.
Snoring can be a disruptive problem, and while mouth and throat exercises are not a complete solution, they can ease the level of disruption involved. They can also assist those with sleep apnea, although you should speak to your doctor for advice on the best exercises to use in conjunction with any other treatments you are currently prescribed.