Exercise Can Reduce Sleep Apnea Symptoms!

December 15, 2022
Woman exercising to reduce her sleep apnea symptoms

During December, many people are thinking about what they want to accomplish when the new year rolls around. It is common to set regular exercise as a goal. That is a good idea, especially if you struggle with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Read on below to learn how regular exercise can play a role in helping you get restful, rejuvenating sleep.

Weight and OSA

Excess body fat, especially when it is around the neck, is a major risk factor for OSA. The fat can place pressure on the tissues in the airway, causing them to collapse and prevent the free flow of oxygen during sleep.

Most weight loss programs encourage regular exercise, which can burn calories, build muscle, and support a healthy metabolism. Combined with a reasonable eating plan, exercise may help you to shed some extra pounds and breathe better at night. And don’t worry — you don’t need to lose a ton of weight. Even a 10% reduction in weight can lead to a significant improvement in sleep apnea symptoms.

What if Losing Weight Is Difficult for You?

Due to genetics or other factors, some people find it extremely difficult to lose weight. If that’s true of you, there is no need to be discouraged. Exercise alone, without any change in your weight, can still be extremely beneficial. Not only can it reduce the risk of many serious health complications that are associated with OSA, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, but it can also help you breathe better at night.

Research published in 2011 found that after a 12-week exercise program, patients with OSA experienced a 25% reduction in the severity of their condition — without any changes to their weight. On average, the participants weighed more than 220 pounds.

How much did the participants exercise to achieve such outstanding results? It was nothing extreme or excessively time-consuming. They walked briskly for 30 – 40 minutes four days each week. Two days each week, they did some light strength training.

The Benefits of Myofunctional Therapy

There is a special type of exercise that might be particularly beneficial for OSA patients. Called myofunctional therapy, this form of exercise involves strengthening and stretching the throat muscles in order to facilitate better breathing. Here are a few examples of myofunctional exercises:

  • Tiger yell. Open your mouth as wide as you can, and try to touch your tongue to your chin. Keep your tongue outside your mouth for at least five seconds.
  • Singing. Whether you are singing in your car or bopping along to your favorite songs while you do chores around the house, loudly singing is great for your airway.
  • Stretching your soft palate. Open your mouth wide and say “ah” for 20 seconds.

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body. Incorporating more movement into your life might be just what you need to enjoy higher-quality sleep.

Meet the Sleep Expert

Dr. Kenneth Mogell is double board certified in dental sleep medicine. For more than 10 years, he has been using oral appliance therapy to help patients cope with obstructive sleep apnea. The professional treatment our team provides is an excellent complement to lifestyle changes, such as exercise. To learn more about us and how we may be able to serve you, contact any of our convenient locations or call us at 772-882-6800.