The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder, and the root cause of these disorders for most is snoring. Many of these snorers have a serious sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Snoring is one of the most common symptoms associated with mild obstructive sleep apnea, and is caused by soft tissues vibrating and obstructing the pharynx during sleep. However, most people who snore do not have OSA.

For both those who are just heavy snorers (called primary) and those who have mild OSA, a Brazilian study published recently has found exercises of the oropharyngeal, mouth and tongue significantly reduce the frequency of snoring by 36%. This study was published on the Online First section of CHEST, a journal published by the American College of Chest Physicians.

For the past 20 years, a number of nonsurgical treatments for snoring have been available such as avoiding alcohol, painkillers, sleeping on the back, and weight loss. Surgeries may include treatment for nasal problems, tissue reduction of the palate and upper airway. To add something so simple like mouth and tongue exercises should come as a great relief for those with mild OSA and primary snoring problems. These exercises in conjunction with other treatments should also help on a case-by-case basis.

According to the study, below are the exercises they recommended.

  • Push the tip of your tongue against the roof of the mouth and slide it backward and forward;
  • Suck the tongue upward against the roof of the mouth, and press the tongue against the roof of the mouth;
  • Push back of your tongue against the bottom of the mouth at the same time keeping the tip of the tongue in contact with the bottom, front teeth.
  • Elevate the back of the roof of the mouth and uvula while saying the vowel “A.”

“This study demonstrates a promising, noninvasive treatment for large populations suffering from snoring, the snorers and their bed partners, that are largely omitted from research and treatment,” said Barbara Phillips, MD, FCCP, President-Designate, American College of Chest Physicians, and Medical Director, Sleep Laboratory at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

To be honest, noninvasive approaches are always the first choice for patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea, and for those who snore, which are a lot of patients, this will be welcome news.