Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes shallow breaths when one is asleep. There may also be pauses between breathing that may occur more than 30 times within an hour. This can heighten the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, abnormal heartbeats, and recurrent heart attacks. However, if you suffer from OSA, there are scientifically studied curative exercises you can employ.
Who can benefit from Sleep Apnea Exercises?
Anyone with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can benefit from these exercises. Regardless of one’s physical abilities, the exercises can be conducted with ease. For people with mobility issues, all that is needed is to sit comfortably in a chair to perform the exercises. The goal of each OSA exercise is to open, clear, and strengthen the airway muscles. Although the method selected to achieve personal goals may be dependent on the area of the respiratory system that needs attention, there is no harm in trying them all. These exercises help people with:
- Snoring disorders caused by a large /thick tongue, or flabby throat tissue.
- A neck size of 16 inches and above.
- Those who breathe with an open mouth when asleep.
There are also people who do not benefit from these exercises including:
- Central OSA sufferers given that the cause of their condition is neurological.
- Young children under the age of 4 since they may need close supervision from a physician.
- People with nasal concerns such as deviated septum.
How can the Exercises Improve Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The researched exercises have been proven to be helpful for sleep breathing disorders. The challenge in the exercises is to strengthen the weak muscles behind the tongue. If you are overweight, the best way to strengthen the muscles is by losing some pounds. The exercises come with several movements which are designed to train the tongue, soft palate, and the facial muscles. Despite oropharyngeal exercise being relatively new, they are highly effective for OSA treatment especially in people who are afraid of dental devices and those tired of dealing with CPAP and dental devices.
What does Oropharyngeal mean?
This stands for the area around the throat at the back of the mouth. This area consists of the uvula, the tonsils, adenoids, soft palate, and the back of the tongue. Therefore oropharyngeal are simple exercises carried out to strengthen the throat muscles. With these exercises, it is easy to tone the muscles involved with keeping the airway open including the jaw, tongue, and throat. When these muscles become flaccid and weak, the air passage is blocked. The exercise done will depend on the weakest area of the mouth as follows:
- If the muscles around the throat collapse during sleep, throat exercises will be the most effective.
- If during sleep the tongue falls back into the throat, tongue exercises will be the most effective.
- For people who breathe through the mouth during sleep, Buteyko exercises may be considered.
The tongue is a key determiner of how one breathes during sleep. Once you fall asleep, the tongue relaxes. However, if your tongue is large, there may be severe episodes of obstructive sleep apnea once the tongue falls into your throat. To apply the right tongue exercises, it is vital to consider the following:
- Get a mirror and check if you have a large or a long tongue: Keep your head in a neutral position as you look into the mirror. Then open your mouth wide and stick your tongue out. Can you see your uvula and the soft palate? If you can, there are no risks of OSA. However, if you notice your uvula is slightly or completely covered by your tongue, these exercises may be helpful and your doctor could recommend jaw surgery.
- Be sure that your tongue is the cause of your OSA: Find this out from your doctor.
- Get a toothbrush and start brushing from the top to the sides of the tongue. The tongue should be seated on the floor of the mouth as you brush.
- Each section should be repeated 5 times three times a day.
- The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen the tongue muscles.
- Make tsk tsk sound: place the tip of your tongue behind the front teeth. While there, make tsk sounds for about one minute.
- Run your tongue in all corners of your mouth. Start with the base of the mouth to the roof and back.
- Then, place your tongue on the upper alveolar ridge behind the teeth leaving it there for 5 minutes.
- Stick out your tongue between your teeth the farthest you can and hold it for a few seconds. Pull it back and breath.
- Repeat it 5 or more times every day.
- Tighten the muscles that keep the mouth closed by chewing a gum before bedtime. This will keep the gum tender.
- To strengthen jaw muscles, clinch an object such as a pen between your teeth before bedtime until the jaw gets sore.
- Place one hand under the chin.
- Then try opening your mouth. The hand placed under the chin should push against the lower jaw.
Throat exercises reduce the severity of OSA by strengthening the airway muscles to make them less likely to collapse.
- Begin by pressing the length of the tongue against the roof of your mouth. Hold it there for about three minutes.
- Get one finger into one side of your mouth. Ensure the finger is held against the cheek and at the same time pull the cheek muscles.
- Pull your lips as if kissing. Hold them tightly together and move them up towards the left and then towards the right. This position should be held for about 10 seconds.
- Get a balloon and take a deep breath through your nose. Then, inflate the balloon with breath from your mouth. This exercise should be repeated five times without taking the balloon from the mouth.
- The other is the chewing gum exercise. You are not required to have a gum but expected to pretend you are chewing gum. Be sure to close the mouth and move your molars as you chew.
- Yawning exercise: once a yawn is stimulated, the mouth should be opened to the maximum. Try thrusting your tongue far behind.
- Vowels: this exercise requires you to recite the vowels fast and clearly. Start with a low tone and increase the voice gradually.
Developing an exercise schedule and practicing it should be easy and flexible. The exercises are performed at no cost and zero side effects. More so, they reduce or eliminate the number of OSA episodes. It is important to remember that together with the exercises, embracing plastic surgery procedure jaw surgery from a professional can be highly effective and is, in fact, the best solution.
Contact Dr. Jamali by visiting http://www.omsofny.com for more updates on sleep apnea. He is a fully certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon. With the medical field continuously evolving, Dr. Jamali dedicates a fair share of his time to furthering his knowledge in oral and maxillofacial reconstruction. Currently, he is a member of the New York State Dental Association, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, and American Dental Association.