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Sleep Apnea Exercises: Can Exercise Really Improve Your Sleep?

Sleep Apnea Exercises: Can Exercise Really Improve Your Sleep?

Individuals who suffer from sleep apnea often struggle to get a good night’s rest. Even those who manage to get a full seven to nine hours of sleep can still feel exhausted in the morning due to low-quality rest. Worse still, sleep apnea has been connected with a wide range of long-term health complications, including serious conditions like heart attack and stroke.

Needless to say, finding a way to manage your condition is essential, both for feeling well-rested in the morning and for enjoying better overall health in the years to come. While there are many steps you can take to ease this condition, few are more effective than adding sleep apnea exercises to your daily routine.


Yes, Exercise Has Been Shown to Improve Sleep Problems

Exercising has been consistently linked with improving sleep conditions for those who suffer from sleep apnea and other related disorders. Indeed, one study found that “an exercise program that combined brisk walking and weight training cut the severity” of a patient’s sleep apnea by as much as 25 percent. Such exercises also decreased daytime fatigue and improved mental focus.

Interestingly, researchers are not entirely sure why a balanced exercise regimen helps alleviate the severity of sleep apnea — they just know that this healthy lifestyle choice can lead to notable improvements. However, exercise has also been found to encourage “deep sleep” (the stage of sleep when the body releases growth hormones and helps clear toxins from the brain), which may help explain why it also improves sleep quality for those diagnosed with sleep apnea.


Key Benefits of Regular Exercise

woman doing yoga stretch

In addition to improving sleep in general, it is worth noting that sleep apnea exercises can directly counteract many of the negative health consequences associated with the disorder. Cardiovascular exercise helps control blood pressure, which is often heightened in individuals suffering from sleep apnea. Cardiovascular fitness has also been shown to strengthen the lungs and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety — common issues that result from a lack of sleep.

Of course, moderate exercise also plays an important role in controlling one’s body weight. With obesity being one of the primary risk factors for developing obstructive sleep apnea, maintaining a healthy weight (or losing excess pounds) can go a long way in reducing one’s risk of their condition becoming even worse. This exercise can also be helpful in ensuring that you don’t experience additional weight gain as a result of your sleep apnea.

Yoga for sleep apnea has also been found to be an effective method of alleviating this condition, in large part thanks to its emphasis on conscious breathing and stretching out many of the muscles that affect your respiratory system. 

As the Livestrong Foundation explains, “Yoga teaches you how to breathe fully and into your diaphragm…A regular practice means this deeper, more quality breath becomes second nature and carries over into sleep. Certain yoga poses also help alleviate habitual stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and back that sometimes lead to compression of the airway as you sleep. Stretching everything out makes more open sleep patterns come naturally, alleviating sleep apnea.”

Though running, weight training and yoga can all prove beneficial for those who deal with sleep apnea, they don’t necessarily have a direct focus on the parts of the body that most contribute to obstructive sleep apnea: your throat and mouth.

Thankfully, there are sleep apnea exercises specifically designed to work out these parts of the body and improve your nighttime breathing. By adding these simple exercises to a normal exercise routine (remember, your goal should be at least 30 minutes each day), you can reduce the severity of sleep apnea and get a better night’s sleep.


Try Out These 5 Additional Exercises For Sleep Apnea:

1.      Tiger Yell Exercises

 tiger yawning

The “tiger yell” (also sometimes referred to as silent yelling), is one of the best sleep apnea exercises for your throat. Essentially, you open your mouth as wide as you can, as if you were yawning or yelling. However, try not to make any noise when you do this. Instead, try pushing your tongue beyond your teeth so that you lift the uvula.

You can either hold this position for a few minutes or perform the exercise in repeated five-second intervals. The “tiger yell” helps strengthen the many muscles found in the back of the throat, reducing the likelihood that the area will constrict or collapse during the night.


2.      Tongue Slide Exercises

Another common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is when the tongue collapses into the back of an individual’s throat. This is most common in individuals who have a tongue that is larger or longer than normal. When this muscle relaxes during sleep, it is more likely to create a blockage.

There are two primary types of tongue slide exercises that can strengthen this muscle and help prevent a nighttime collapse. The first is to press the tip of your tongue against your hard palate (the roof of your mouth just behind the teeth), and slowly slide it back. The other requires that you stick out your tongue and try to push it forward as if you were trying to lick your nose, holding it in this position for a few seconds.

Both exercises should be repeated between 10 and 20 times. In addition to strengthening the tongue, these sleep apnea exercises have been linked to reduced snoring — something your spouse will undoubtedly be grateful for.


3.      Soft Palate Exercises

 balloons in the sky

An elongated or overly large soft palate can also contribute to obstructive sleep apnea by blocking the throat opening during sleep. This can also occur when the soft palate is weaker than it should be — and in this case, the problem can at least be partially resolved through exercise.

The most commonly recommended exercise for this area is known as soft palate blowing. To perform this exercise, close your mouth as tightly as possible and use your nose to inhale. While pressing your lips together, try to exhale through your mouth. The extra resistance created by your lips will make it harder to breathe out, but this will simultaneously stretch and strengthen the soft palate and the pharynx. For best results, try to make your exhalation last for a full five seconds. You can also achieve similar results by inflating a balloon.

Another popular soft palate exercise requires little more than imitating a trip to the dentist’s office: open your mouth wide and say “Ahhh.” Try to hold this position (while still making the “ahhh” sound) for 20 seconds. For best results, both sleep apnea exercises should be repeated 10 times each day.


4.      Jaw Tension Exercise 

Your jaw muscles also play a big role in sleep apnea — the tighter these muscles are, the more pressure they put on the body’s breathing passages. To release tension in the jaw, push your tongue against the roof of the mouth while keeping the mouth closed. Then, gradually slide your tongue as far back as you can, while still keeping it pressed against the roof of your mouth. Finally, slowly open your jaw, trying to keep your tongue in the same position until the roof pulls away.

Other sleep apnea exercises that can help relieve jaw tension include smiling as wide as you can and then opening the jaw while breathing through the mouth, as well as using your fingers to slowly pull down the lower jaw. Another option is to press your hand against your jaw to try holding it shut, and then attempting to open your mouth. If your jaw is feeling extra tight, you can also try giving it a nice massage! 

Interestingly, chewing gum has also been found to help address issues related to jaw tension. You should also pay attention to the way you chew your food when you eat. Similar to how most people are either right-handed or left-handed, we also tend to chew our food on one side of the mouth, rather than using both sides equally. To help relieve tension and ensure that the jaw is strong in all areas, make a conscious effort to switch which side of the mouth you use to chew during meals.


5.      Playing Didgeridoo

balloons in the sky 

Playing the didgeridoo may not sound very conventional compared to other sleep apnea exercises, but it can provide significant benefits that help you manage your condition. This was actually proven by a 2006 study that found playing the didgeridoo resulted in significant improvements in reducing nighttime disturbances caused by sleep apnea. 

What is it that makes the didgeridoo so beneficial? Successful playing of this instrument requires a “circular breathing technique” that is sometimes compared to yoga. Didgeridoo players must keep their cheeks inflated while using their nose to breathe in order to produce a consistent sound from the instrument. This provides extensive exercise to the body’s upper airways.

If you can’t find a didgeridoo, you can still get some musically-inclined sleep apnea exercises by performing singing warmups. A controlled trial found that patients who suffered from mild to moderate sleep apnea experienced notable improvements in their symptoms after as little as three months of practice. This was because the singing exercises improved both “the tone and strength of pharyngeal muscles.”

You don’t have to sign up for professional singing lessons to enjoy these benefits. Instead, you can get started by singing different vowel sounds at various pitches for several seconds. Other helpful singing exercises include practicing two-octave scales (going up and down in pitch to stretch the vocal chords), trilling the tongue and lips, and humming. Of course, you can take the next step by singing a few favorite songs as well!


Exercise Alone is Not a Solution

 man sleeping with CPAP mask

For the biggest improvements, you should try to perform these sleep apnea exercises each day as an additional part of a normal workout routine. However, though exercise can make a big difference in your overall well-being, it is essential that you continue using your CPAP machine as prescribed by your doctor. Exercise can alleviate sleep apnea symptoms, but it is not the cure.

Indeed, for some patients, immediately diving into a high-intensity exercise regimen could do more harm than good. Studies have found that individuals who suffer from extreme obstructive sleep apnea often have less ability to exercise, in part because their bodies have a reduced oxygen intake capacity. This can also contribute to higher blood pressure or a weakened pulse during exercise. 

As such, individuals who suffer from sleep apnea should exercise caution or potentially consult with their physician prior to starting a new exercise routine. This way, they can engage in a healthy routine designed to match their physical capabilities and gradually increase in intensity as appropriate.

Though exercise can be beneficial, the use of a CPAP machine has consistently been found to be the best method of controlling symptoms of sleep apnea. These machines ensure that the right amount of air pressure is reaching your respiratory system to prevent the obstruction of your airways that causes a poor night of sleep. 

To ensure that you get the rest you need and avoid the negative long-term health consequences of sleep apnea, it is best to combine these recommended sleep apnea exercises with the use of your CPAP machine. Here at Help Medical Supplies, we offer a wide variety of CPAP-related products, including machines, masks, and cleaning devices to help you get the rest you need. By taking these additional steps to control your symptoms, you’ll get higher-quality sleep and enjoy several other lasting health benefits.



Sleep apnea exercises may not be the cure for your condition. But there is no denying that they can be of significant help as you try to manage your sleep apnea and its side effects. By improving your commitment to a healthy cardiovascular and weight training routine, as well as practicing specialized breathing and respiratory system exercises, you’ll put yourself in a far better position to take back your sleep. It may also be helpful to speak with your doctor to learn about additional sleep apnea exercises that can provide relief for your specific situation.

These exercises won't just help you sleep better. They’ll help you look better, feel more confident about yourself, and have the energy you need to face the challenges of each day. So don’t just sit there — get going and start working out!


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