Some experts estimate that nearly 26 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 70 experience obstructive sleep apnea and related symptoms. This statistic, along with others, suggests that sleep apnea has become increasingly more prevalent over the last several years. While the reasons for such a spike are wide-ranging and without a singular traceable origin, what is clear is that more and more people are suffering from this debilitating condition.
However, although many people with sleep apnea might not know it, numerous breathing exercises can help control sleep apnea, resulting in a better night’s sleep. Today, we’ll look at a variety of breathing exercises for sleep and share how you can incorporate them into your daily regimen to ensure a healthier, undisturbed sleep cycle.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
For a better understanding of why these breathing exercises can potentially mitigate signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, a brief overview of sleep apnea is in order. Essentially, sleep apnea is the result of the muscles in the back of the throat failing to keep airways open during sleep. While the most recognizable symptom of sleep apnea is excessive and chronic snoring, those who suffer from it may experience a range of other ailments, including difficulty concentrating, depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, learning and memory problems, and falling asleep while at work, on the phone, or driving. If individuals leave sleep apnea untreated, then they may become susceptible to more severe concerns.
Since the cause of sleep apnea is the muscles of the throat improperly expanding and blocking the flow of air, strengthening those muscles may help them maintain more tension during sleep, in turn keeping your airways open. Several studies have shown the connection between oral exercises and sleep apnea symptom reduction.
Beyond regular exercise, it’s also helpful to give smaller muscles a workout, specifically those in your mouth, throat, soft palate, and tongue. Some mouth and breathing exercises that place focus on those areas include:
Push the tip of the tongue against the roof of your mouth, also known as the hard palate, and slide the tongue backward. Repeat this exercise 20 times. It can go a long way to strengthening your tongue and helping to reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
Open your mouth as wide as possible and stick your tongue out in a downward position. Your tongue needs to be as far out as possible. The uvula, the small fleshy piece in the back of your throat, needs to be lifted upwards as you stick your tongue out. Use a mirror to ensure that you’re raising the uvula correctly. After practice, you will be able to sense the uvula lifting, and you will not require the mirror. Hold the elevated uvula for five seconds and repeat 10 times.
A tight jaw puts added pressure on your breathing passages. With your tongue in the resting position and your mouth closed, arch your tongue against the roof of your mouth and slide the tip of your tongue back as far as it will go along the roof of your mouth. With your tongue in this position, slowly open your jaw until your tongue can no longer rest on the roof of your mouth. Repeat this process two times each day for five minutes to aid in reducing sleep apnea issues.
A natural stretch for your soft palate is to open your mouth as wide as you can while saying “ah” in the back of the throat. Continue this stretch for 20 seconds. Close your mouth, wait five seconds, then repeat between five and 10 times.
Long-Term Treatment Alternatives
While these exercises are a great natural way to prevent some of the complications associated with sleep apnea, they are not, however, guaranteed to produce results. In some cases, especially those with the most severe symptoms, where at-home remedies are not providing relief, you may want to consider more advanced and professional treatments, such as those designed and offered by Dr. Mandel at Florida Sinus & Snoring Specialists. From nasal procedures such as Minimally Invasive Palatal Stiffening (MIPS) to Balloon Sinuplasty, each method is quick and minimally invasive, and they provide long-lasting relief to ensure a lifetime of easier breathing. Call us at 954-983-1211 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment online today.