A small new study from a group of Brazilian researchers is good news for snorers — and the people near them at bedtime. In a three-month trial, the researchers found that certain mouth and tongue exercises can actually reduce snoring.
Snoring is very common, affecting around 90 million American men and women. It’s not confined to adults, either; snoring is prevalent in about 12% of children in the general population, too.
For about a third of those people, snoring is part of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which the sleeper briefly but repeatedly stops breathing while asleep. The researchers say that the exercises they tested can help snorers both with and without OSA.
In order to understand the logic behind the premise that exercises might reduce snoring, it’s necessary to understand why snoring occurs. This deep breathing happens when the throat muscles relax, making the passage narrow and floppy, and the tongue falls backward. The walls of the throat then vibrate when the sleeper draws breath, producing the snoring sound most know so well.
To test whether exercises do in fact reduce snoring, primary paper author Geraldo Lorenzi-Filho and his team recruited about 40 patients who complained of snoring and mild or moderate OSA. At the beginning of the study, the patients were evaluated with both sleep questionnaires and objective snoring measurements (polysomnography).
Participants then did four exercises over the period of the study: pushing the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and then sliding it backward; sucking the entire tongue upward to be pressed against the roof of the mouth; pressing the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while simultaneously maintaining contact between the tip of the tongue and the front teeth; and elevating the rear portion of the roof of the mouth while saying the vowel “A.”
Evaluations at the conclusion of the study found that participants who did the exercises snored 36% less frequently and 59% less powerfully.
Those results were compared against participants who tried other regimens, such as flushing their nasal passages with saline or doing breathing exercises. Unlike those doing the mouth and tongue exercises, these subjects saw little improvement.
The full study has been published in the journal Chest under the title “Effects of oropharyngeal exercises on snoring: a randomized trial.”