Nearly 45% of adults snore occasionally and an estimated 25% snore on a regular basis. Not only can snoring disrupt your partner’s sleep, but it also reduces the quality of your sleep. This can contribute to or exacerbate sleep disorders, cause people to sleep in separate rooms, and lead to fatigue. You can take action by practicing ways to ease or alleviate snoring which can enhance sleep and overall wellness. Research shows that mouth and throat exercises can improve mild snoring as well as obstructive sleep apnea, one of the most common sleep disorders. Also known as myofunctional therapy or oropharyngeal exercises, these interventions can tone the muscles around the airways, reducing or quieting snoring.
How Does Snoring Happen?
To understand how exercises can help with snoring, it is useful to know how and why people snore to begin with. Snoring happens when the space behind the tongue becomes narrow and the tissue overrelaxes. When air then flows through that space, that tissue flutters and the sound from this movement is what is described as snoring.
Several factors can cause snoring. This includes the following:
- Anatomy: the space behind the tongue can be made narrower by anatomical features like a deviated nasal septum, enlarged tonsils, lower roof of mouth etc.
- Sleep Position: specific sleep positions can affect the mouth and throat. For example, sleeping on your back can push the mouth open, causing throat muscles to relax which triggers snoring.
- Alcohol Consumption: alcohol is a central nervous system depressant which means that it slows down the body’s neurological processes. This can contribute to throat muscles relaxing, leading to snoring.
- Obesity: having excess tissue in and around the neck area can impact airways and airflow, contributing to snoring.
- Aging: as adults age, there is an increased risk of experiencing changes to tissues and bones that cause weakening or collapsing of muscles that leads to snoring.
- Sleep Disorders: One in two people who snore, have a sleep disorder. Most commonly sleep apnea which is when breathing is disrupted throughout one’s sleep.
Snoring can be unpleasant for you and those around you. It can take a toll on sleep which produces a range of symptoms: fatigue, irritability, inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, etc. Fortunately, there are useful ways you can manage your snoring so that it is less impactful.
How Exercises Can Help
Snoring is produced by relaxed airway muscles, positioning of the tongue, and breathing through the mouth. Throat and mouth exercises can support breathing through the nose in addition to tightening up the muscles around the airways and tongue. These muscles are in and around the back of the mouth which includes: tongue, sides of the throat, tonsils, soft palate, and adenoids. There are specific exercises you can practice to tone these muscles so that they are less likely to collapse and flutter.
Like any type of workout, you have to engage in it consistently to experience results. With these specific mouth and throat exercises, research shows that you should practice daily for a few months to observe the impact on snoring.
Exercises to Alleviate Snoring
There are different types of exercises – tongue, face, breathing – that you can practice daily to strengthen the muscles that contribute to snoring. This includes the following:
- Tongue: start with the tip of your tongue on the back of your top teeth and then move your tongue (by the tip) across the roof of your mouth; stick your tongue out as much as possible and try to touch your chin; place your tongue against the roof of your mouth and press against it.
- Face: close your mouth tightly then open and relax your jaws and lips; use your fingers to pull on your cheeks and use your facial muscles to bring them back in.
- Breathing: take deep breaths through your nose and count to 5 as you breathe in and as you exhale.
These exercises should all be practiced and repeated numerous times (5-10) daily. The goal is to tone the mouth and throat muscles so that they are less likely to over relax during sleep. If snoring continues to be a chronic issue, be sure to consult with your doctor.