Snoring is caused by partial closure of air passage at the back of the throat, also called upper airway, due to relaxation of muscles that occur during sleep. Research has shown that snoring may be treated by exercises that improve the function of these muscles. Just like any other muscle training, these exercises need to be performed regularly during the daytime in order to experience a sustained benefit in snoring during sleep.
These exercises may be performed in the following ways:
1. Playing the musical instrument didgeridoo
In a Swiss study from 2006, researchers showed that training to play this wind instrument improves snoring and sleep apnea. This improvement may potentially be attributed to the circular breathing that is required to play the instrument. In circular breathing, the player maintains a sound for prolonged periods of time by inhaling through the nose while simultaneously exhaling through the mouth and using the cheeks as bellows. After 8 weeks of training for 25 minutes a day, 6 days a week, a significant reduction in snoring and moderate sleep apnea were noted. Since this study, others have evaluated singing and other wind instruments for similar benefits but have not been able to replicate the success of this trial.
2. Orofacial exercises
Researchers from Brazil have reported improvement in snoring and sleep apnea with the use of extensive exercises involving the tongue, palate, and lips. In a clinical trial these exercises when performed for 8 minutes at a time, 3 times per day, over 3 months reduced snoring significantly.
These exercises involve the following maneuvers:
- Pushing the tip of the tongue against the hard palate and sliding the tongue backward (20 times);
- Sucking the tongue upward against the palate, pressing the entire tongue against the palate (20 times);
- Forcing the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping the tip of the tongue in contact with the inferior incisive teeth (20 times)
- Elevation of the soft palate and uvula while intermittently saying the vowel “A” (20 times);
- Elevation of the soft palate and uvula without vocalization for 5 seconds;
- Introducing a finger in the mouth and pushing the inside of the cheek outwards (10 times each side);
- Alternately chewing and swallowing using the tongue in the palate, without contraction of the lips during feeding.
3. Smartphone-based game for exercising upper airway muscles
In order to standardize and simplify upper airway muscle exercise training, researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a smartphone application called Soundly. involving a voice-controlled game. The vocal sounds produced during this game allow repeated movement of the base of the tongue, thus improving the function of upper airway muscles involved in snoring. In a clinical study, when played 15 minutes a day for 8 weeks, these games were shown to be effective in reducing snoring and improving the sleep of the snorers and their bed-partners. This technique may also improve the patient engagement and measure compliance with the exercise plan.
repeatedly saying “eee” and “aw” the user
The “eee” sound moves the base of the tongue up and forward.
The “aw” sound moves the base of the tongue down and back.
You can find a video of how the Soundly app works here.