Snoring is one of the more common sleep phenomena, with 40% of women and 57% of men experiencing it habitually. It’s common for snoring to cause an issue for those we may share a bed with, but it can also disturb roommates or family members who sleep in separate rooms. Sometimes snoring can be so loud as to cause partners or spouses to sleep in separate bedrooms.
While it’s natural to wish to avoid snoring, it’s not always clear which methods may work for you. Snoring can result from a variety of root causes, including:
- Sleep apnea
- Alcohol or sedatives
- Smoking cigarettes
- Individual head and neck anatomy
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Sleeping on your back
- Being overweight
Each cause may require a different approach to reduce the consequent snoring problem. Additionally, some of these causes are more serious than others, so it’s best to see your doctor if your snoring causes you to stop breathing in your sleep or wake up frequently. If you’re sleepy during the day or have headaches in the morning, likewise you should see your doctor.
Snoring and sleep apnea in otherwise healthy people are usually caused by a combination of floppy airway muscles, poor tongue posture, and breathing through the mouth while asleep. Doing the exercises below on a regular basis can help tone these muscles and, over time, help alleviate snoring and sleep apnea.
Known as “myofunctional therapy” or “oropharyngeal exercises,” a regular routine involving these exercises has been shown to reduce snoring and mild forms of obstructive sleep apnea. Those with sleep apnea tend to see better results when these exercises are combined with surgery or the use of a CPAP machine. These exercises are not a guaranteed solution, so be sure to talk to your doctor about any approaches you plan to take, including these exercises. If they do work for you, you will likely see improvement after about three months of committed practice.
All of the following exercises can be performed 2–3 times per day, not necessarily in the order listed below.
Exercises for the Tongue
- Tongue Slide – Start with the tip of your tongue pressed to the back of your upper front teeth. Slowly, bring the tip of your tongue back along the roof of your mouth 5–10 times.
- Tongue Stretch – Stick your tongue out as far as possible. Look up at the ceiling, and try to touch the tip of your tongue to your chin. Hold this position for 10–15 seconds, a little longer each time. Do this 5 times.
- Tongue Push Up – Hold your whole tongue against the roof of your mouth for 10 seconds, and repeat 5 times.
- Tongue Push Down – With the tip of your tongue pressed against your lower front teeth, push the back of your tongue downward against the floor of your mouth for 10 seconds. Repeat this 5 times.
Exercises for the Face
- Cheek Hook – With one finger hooked into your mouth against the inside of your cheek, gently pull your cheek outward. Use your face muscles to try to pull your cheek back inward. Do 10 repetitions on each side of your mouth.
- Lip Purse – Close your mouth tightly and purse your lips, then open your mouth and relax your jaw and lips. Do this 10 times.
- Close your mouth and relax your jaw, then take a breath in through your nose. Use a finger or knuckle to close off one of your nostrils, exhaling gently through the nostril that remains open. Do this 10 times, alternating which nostril you close each time. You may find that one nostril is more congested than the other, and work more on breathing through that one.
- Vowels are pronounced using the muscles in the throat. By repeating vowel sounds, you can help tone those muscles. Repeat the sounds a-e-i-o-u, starting with normal pronunciation and then adjusting the length and speed. Do the same sound 10–20 times before switching to a different one. You might also combine sounds, like saying “ooo-aaah,” and repeating that 10–20 times, as well.
- Early research suggests that deliberate singing may help reduce snoring. Singing makes us move through a diverse collection of sounds and pitches, especially vowels. Be sure to sing deliberately and with gusto, rather than quietly singing to yourself.
Even if you choose to begin practicing these mouth exercises, remember that it’s important to see a doctor if your snoring is disruptive to your sleep, or maybe linked to changes in the way you feel throughout the day. Call us today to make an appointment if you’re worried about snoring.