Do Throat Exercises Relieve Sleep Apnea?

Man sleeping with CPAP machine

Many people are familiar with the term “sleep apnea.” For those who aren’t, it is a condition caused when the airway collapses or constricts during sleep, causing loud snoring and short periods where the sleeper stops breathing. An automatic mechanism in the brain prompts the sleeper to change positions or wake up in order to breathe again. In some cases, depending on the severity of the condition, a special machine is used for treatment. The CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure machine keeps the airways open to prevent the snoring and cessation of breathing.

But a study done in 2009 found that throat and mouth exercises improved the condition by 39 percent. This presents another option for the treatment of moderate sleep apnea at a lower cost to the sufferer as well as to insurance companies that cover the expense of the machines. Given the fact that the masks and filters used in the machines must be replaced routinely to prevent bacteria and dust, the costs can be quite sizable. To lower these costs, some respiratory therapists and doctors are incorporating exercises as an alternative in the treatment of sleep apnea.

A man with a CPAP machine

Different movements of the face and throat help to build the muscles of the throat, as well as reducing neck size to allow airways to stay open. For example, swallowing exercises or repeating certain vowels quickly and repeatedly can strengthen the muscle structure around the trachea, or wind pipe, preventing the collapse that happens during sleep.

Although the exercise method of treatment is not as often used or well-studied as the machines, it is one more option to consider in lowering the costs of medical treatment for moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Your doctor may be able to give more information on the subject, and you are encouraged to speak to him or her to learn all of the options for treatment.  For more information on sleep apnea please see the article on sleep apnea.

Your comments on this information are welcomed, given how controversial the study is.