Mouth Exercises May Help Sleep Apnea?

A set of simple exercises designed to strengthen upper airway muscles shows significant promise as an alternative to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Brazilian researchers studied 31 patients with moderate OSA. Half the group (controls) were asked to do deep breathing exercises, and the other half were taught repetitive exercises of the soft palate, tongue, and facial muscles, breathing, speech, swallowing and chewing exercises (video). After three months the control group had not improved, but the exercise group, although not losing any weight, had improved significantly. Sleepiness and sleep-quality scores also improved significantly only in the intervention group. These positive outcomes are probably due to changes in upper airway anatomy.

If these results can be replicated elsewhere, this could be very helpful for those who have difficulty tolerating CPAP therapy. Sleep apnea can be very debilitating and has serious health consequences, so these simple exercises could potentially be a welcome alternative to CPAP machines for many.