Tongue Exercises for Sleep Apnea: Offer Great Help In Reducing Symptoms

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It is somewhat like joining the dots to complete the picture. Start with obesity, move on to snoring, further move on the neglected snoring and the last point to complete the picture is sleep apnea.

Most of us know the kind of health complications obesity entails but our knowledge is often limited to diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, arthritis, etc. Though seemingly simple, snoring is a very common outcome of obesity, which when ignored can worsen into sleep apnea, one of the most distressful sleep disorders, very often with fatal consequences.

Obesity management is the first step in the treatment of sleep apnea. Physical workouts, diet planning, etc are therefore the first recommendations. But being overweight also means accumulating excess fat in the muscles of breathing organs like neck, throat, tongue and soft palate. To reduce fat in these regions there is no better way than to do various types of sleep apnea exercises that focus primarily on muscles of organs directly responsible for breathing.

Sleep apnea exercises can be done with the main focus on the tongue, throat or the jaws, depending on the doctors’ recommendation. The doctor is the best judge to decide which of the sleep apnea exercises would suit which condition best.

Tongue exercises for sleep apnea: what they achieve


In case your doctor has recommended tongue exercises for sleep apnea you would be naturally keen to learn more about them, their credibility and effectiveness, what they do, how they work and how they form part of throat exercises for sleep apnea.

First of all, the effectiveness of tongue exercises for sleep apnea is backed by results from authentic and reliable clinical trials. Reports published in 2009 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine confirmed that compared to patients who were put on breathing and nasal exercises for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, those who did tongue exercises for sleep apnea for 30 minutes every day for 3 months, had a significant reduction in the neck circumference, experienced reduction in snoring, and their sleep disorder improved by 39%.

Tongue exercises also strengthen the jaw muscles and increases muscular tone. This automatically makes them less flaccid and weak and prevents them from collapsing during sleep creating obstructions in breathing.

The primary aim of tongue exercises for sleep apnea is to strengthen the muscles of the tongue, which if you remember, often collapse and fall back obstructing the throat. This is the reason why any sleep apnea throat exercise will concurrently benefit the muscles of the tongue also. A very simple tongue exercise that you can do anytime is to stick your tongue as far out as possible and hold it in that position for as long as you can. Done repeatedly this simple tongue exercise can have an amazing effect on strengthening the muscles.

Efficacy of tongue exercises for sleep apnea: the Brazilian experience and Canadian endorsement

Led by Katia Guimaraes of the sleep laboratory at Brazil’s University of Sao Paolo Medical School there was a clinical trial to study the effect of tongue and facial exercises on 31 patients with sleep apnea. The reports were later published in the May 15 edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The key outcomes emerging from the study:

  • Certain tongue exercises for sleep apnea done regularly for 30 minutes for 3 months reduces the severity of the apnea condition.
  • The exercises included:

–          Tongue brushing with a toothbrush keeping the tongue on the floor of the mouth. Do             each movement 5 times thrice a day.

–          Placing the tip of the tongue on the soft palate and then sliding it backwards.

–          Place entire tongue on the roof of the mouth and hold it for 3 minutes every day.

–          Vowel pronunciation rapidly and repeatedly

–          Positioning the tongue in a specific position while eating.

According to Catriona Steele, PhD, of Canada’s Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and University of Toronto “there seems to be reasonable logic to targeting tongue strength as a potential mechanism for remodeling the upper airway.”

However it needs to be kept in mind that no matter how regularly and diligently such tongue exercises for sleep apnea or for that matter any of the throat exercises for sleep apnea are done, in isolation they may not be adequate to reduce the sleep apnea symptoms significantly. You need to combine such efforts with other types of physical workouts to get the desired weight loss results.