How to Do Exercises for Sleep Apnea Treatment

Written by Pam MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person experiences one or more periods of very shallow or paused breathing. The pauses can occur 30 or more times in an hour and last from a few seconds to several minutes. When normal breathing resumes, it is typically accompanied by a loud choking or snorting sound. This common disorder disrupts the quality of your sleep and leads to excessive daytime sleepiness as well as high blood pressure and heart problems. While the majority of apnea sufferers are men, half of the people with the condition are overweight. Performing throat, tongue and breathing exercises can strengthen muscles and reduce sleep apnea symptoms.

Throat Exercises

Repeatedly pronouncing the “ah” sound can strengthen throat muscles. Begin by pronouncing the sound in a series of quick bursts and then use longer tones. This exercise engages the tongue, uvula and muscles of your palette. Perform this exercise for three minutes per day. Strengthening your throat muscles by changing the way you chew and swallow can also help alleviate sleep apnea. Chew your food evenly on both sides of your mouth. Swallow while you keep your tongue against the roof of your mouth and your teeth closed. Do not contract your facial muscles.

Tongue Exercises

Several tongue exercises can help reduce the effects of sleep apnea. While placing the tip of your tongue against the lower front teeth, push the back of your tongue against the bottom of your mouth for at least three minutes. You can also place your tongue against the upper teeth and then slide it backward across the roof of your mouth for three minutes. In addition to pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth for three minutes, you can also use a toothbrush to brush the top and sides of your tongue while keeping it on the floor of your mouth. Perform five repetitions of this exercise three times per day.

Breathing Exercises

Inflating a balloon can strengthen your throat muscles. Breathe in through your nose, and place your lips around the balloon opening. As you exhale, blow as much air inside the balloon as you can. Breathe in to release the air. Repeat the exercise five times without removing the balloon from your mouth. You can also perform morning breathing exercises. Immediately after waking up, stand up and bend forward at the waist. Bend your knees slightly to maintain your balance as you let your arms dangle by your side. As you gently inhale, slowly straighten your back. Hold your breath for three to five seconds in the upright position. Exhale as you gently lower yourself back to the starting position. Perform two to three repetitions of this exercise.

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