May 09, 2015

Tongue and Mouth Exercises May Help Reduce Snoring is a very common problem for which there is no easy quick fix. There are many possible treatments, but all too often, it only helps a certain percentage of folks and not others. The reason why is because snoring could come from many possible anatomic sources whether nose, palate, uvula, tongue, cheek, epiglottis, etc. So what causes one person's snore may not necessarily be what causes the snore in another person.

Brazilian researchers have at least come up with a set of tongue and mouth exercises that may help individuals whose snore is due to tongue/mouth factors. Best of all... it's free and at least according to their study population of 39 patients (20 control; 19 study), there was a significant decrease in frequency of loud snoring by 36% and the total power of snoring by 59% after 3 months of exercising!

It can't hurt to give it a try. The improvement is thought to occur due to increased muscle tone allowing the airway to remain open during sleep.

Although there are many different variations on what exercises to do, here are the 6 exercises you can try daily (photos courtesy of my dad... thanks dad!):

Exercise #1: Push the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and slide backwards. Perform 20 times.

Exercise #1

Exercise #2: Suck the entire tongue upward against the roof of the mouth (like you are about to make a cluck sound). Perform 20 times.

Exercise #2

Exercise #3: Force the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping the tongue tip pressed against back aspect of the lower teeth. Perform 20 times.

Exercise #3

Exercise #4: Elevate the soft palate and uvula up and down. Perform 20 times.

Exercise #5: Press your cheek muscle against your finger. Perform 10 times on each side.

Exercise #5

Exercise #6: Alternate bilateral chewing and swallowing using the tongue against the palate without perioral contraction whenever feeding.

Alternatively, playing a wind instrument like the didgeridoo has also been found to be helpful.

For more information about snoring in general, click here.

Effects of oropharyngeal exercises on snoring: a randomized trial. Chest. 2015. doi:10.1378/chest.14-2953 

Effects of oropharyngeal exercises on patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2009 May 15;179(10):962-6. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200806-981OC. Epub 2009 Feb 20. 
Risk of obstructive sleep apnea lower in double reed wind musicians. J Clin Sleep Med. 2012 Jun 15;8(3):251-5. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.1906.  

Oropharyngeal and tongue exercises (myofunctional therapy) for snoring: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology volume 275, pages 849–855 (2018).

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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