For Obstructive Sleep Apnea Sufferers, Throat Exercises Provide Relief
There is a simple (and free) technique that researchers from Brazil have studied, suggesting that exercising the throat muscles may improve severe obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. These throat exercises, derived from speech therapy, seem to work because they have a marked ability to strengthen and tone the muscles of the throat, even reducing the circumference of a patient’s neck.
Sleep apnea is a potentially life threatening sleep disorder that is caused when the muscles of the throat collapse during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of apnea and also the most serious because it causes the soft tissue in the palate, throat, or tongue to “obstruct” the flow of air as a person struggles to breathe while they are asleep. Apnea is particularly severe when there are more than twenty or thirty events per hour because it severely limits the amount of oxygen the person receives throughout the night. Carrying extra weight, especially around the throat area has been found to be a related cause of OSA.
According to an article last month in The New York Times, a study on the effects of specific throat exercises on obstructive sleep apnea patients was conducted by the Heart Institute’s Pulmonary Sleep Laboratory at the University of São Paulo Medical School in Brazil. Researchers split the OSA patients into two groups. One group was instructed to do simple breathing exercises every day, the other group was instructed to do 30 minutes of throat exercises a day, comparable to those that speech therapists employ. The motions included swallowing and chewing, sliding the tongue back and forth to front of the palate, and repeating particular vowel sounds quickly. This exercise technique may be an alternative for some patients to the most widely known treatment of sleep apnea today, the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which is attached to a mask the patient wears while asleep.
The researchers found that after three months, the group that only did the breathing exercises had almost no improvement, while those that performed the throat exercises reduced the severity of their sleep apnea by 39 percent. Although the patients’ body mass index remained consistent, also noted was that the exercises reduced the circumference of the subjects’ necks significantly. The study also stated they snored less and slept better, concluding that throat exercises “significantly reduce Obstructive Sleep Apnea severity and symptoms, and represent a promising treatment for moderate OSA.”
The report analysis can be found at PubMed.org. For more information about the available treatments of obstructive sleep apnea, including a throat exercise program, contact Eos Sleep. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, it is important to get the treatment you need.
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