Mouth Exercises to Stop Snoring

Many people snore, or make a snorting, whistling, or rumbling sound in their airway when they sleep. Up to 44% of people ages 30 to 60 snore on a regular basis, and almost everyone snores occasionally. 

If your snoring is disrupting you or your bed partner’s sleep, there are several methods you can try to stop snoring. One method is doing exercises that strengthen and tone muscles in the mouth, throat, and other parts of the upper airway. 

Learn more about why people snore, exercises you can practice to strengthen upper airway muscles, and when to speak with a doctor about your sleep health concerns. 

Why Do We Snore?

Snoring occurs as air pases through loose or narrow tissues in the mouth, nose, and throat during sleep, producing sounds caused by the vibration of these tissues. 

There are many medical conditions that cause snoring, including obstructive sleep apnea, nasal polyps, and nasal congestion from allergies or the common cold. 

Anatomy can also play a role in whether a person snores. The size and shape of the structures in the mouth and throat, as well as the tone or tension of the muscles in a relaxed state are common factors for snoring.

Having a tongue with a large base or swollen tonsils can lead to snoring. People who have recently gained weight or have obesity are also at increased risk for snoring. Thicker necks, additional tonge fat, and narrower airways can partially obstruct the flow of air, which can also lead to snorting, gasping, or whistling while asleep.

Poor muscle tone can contribute to loose tissue in the upper airway. As breath passes by, it can cause these loose tissues to flutter or vibrate. Poor muscle tone can result from taking certain medications or drinking alcohol before bed. Older adults also tend to lose muscle tone in the throat and mouth as they age. 

When a person sleeps on their back, soft tissues are more likely to fall back into the airway, increasing the risk of snoring. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts during sleep. This happens when the soft tissues of the mouth and throat collapse into the upper airway and block the flow of air. OSA affects 10% to 30% of people in the U.S..

Snoring is a common symptom in people diagnosed with OSA. Other symptoms of OSA include daytime sleepiness, waking up frequently during the night, and morning headaches. A person’s bed partner may also be bothered by sounds of snoring, choking, or gasping for air.

Most people who snore do not have OSA. However, people who have OSA often snore. If you or your bed partner snore frequently or struggle with getting enough healthy sleep, speak with a health care professional. 

What is Myofunctional Therapy?

Myofunctional therapy is a set of exercises that can improve muscle strength in the mouth, face, and throat, as well as encourage proper tongue posture and breathing. Research suggests that regularly practicing mouth and throat exercises over time may help reduce snoring. 

Myofunctional therapy may also be referred to as orofacial myofunctional therapy, oropharyngeal exercises, upper airway exercises, or mouth and throat exercises. 

Speech pathologists, sleep specialists, and dental professionals usually have training in upper airway exercises. If your health care provider thinks you may benefit from myofunctional therapy, you may be referred to a specialist. 

Can Mouth and Throat Exercises Help Stop Snoring?

People who regularly practice mouth and throat exercises may experience some relief from snoring. Some studies also indicate that myofunctional therapy may improve snoring associated with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea and improve the regular use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine in people with OSA. 

Although mouth and throat exercises may help with snoring related to obstructive sleep apnea, upper airway exercises are not an effective treatment for OSA. Myofunctional therapy should not replace other treatments for sleep apnea prescribed by a doctor. 

Studies are ongoing to learn more about the benefits of myofunctional therapy for snoring and sleep apnea

How Often Should You Do Mouth and Throat Exercises?

Researchers and health professionals suggest that practicing upper airway exercises anywhere from 8 to 30 minutes a day can be beneficial if continued for at least three months. 

Experts agree that performing the exercises as prescribed consistently over time provides the most benefit. 

Exercises That Can Help with Snoring and Sleep Apnea

There are a variety of exercises that you can perform over time to improve the tone and strength of muscles in the mouth, face, and throat. Talk with a health care professional if you have questions about which exercises may be most beneficial for your snoring.

Tongue Exercises

Practicing exercises that strengthen the muscles of the tongue and improve tongue posture can help improve snoring. 

Tongue Slide
  1. Position the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. The tip of your tongue should hit the spot where your upper teeth meet your gums.
  2. Slide your tongue backward.
  3. Repeat this exercise for a total of three minutes a day.
Tongue Aerobics
  1. Begin by sticking out your tongue.
  2. Reach your tongue up towards your nose.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Reach your tongue down towards your chin.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds.
  6. Push your tongue to the left.
  7. Hold for 10 seconds.
  8. Push your tongue to the right.
  9. Hold for 10 seconds.
  10. Repeat 10 times.
Tongue Push Up
  1. Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth where your front teeth meet your gums.
  2. Open and close your lower jaw while your tongue stays in contact with the roof of your mouth.
  3. Repeat at least 10 times.
Tongue Stretch
  1. Open your mouth and stick your tongue out straight as far as you can.
  2. Hold your tongue in this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
  3. Gradually increase the duration of the exercise over time.
  4. Repeat five times.

Face Exercises

Movements that exercise muscles in the face can help people sleep with their mouth closed as well as improve the strength of muscles in the upper airway. 

Lip Purse
  1. Purse or pucker your lips as if to whistle or kiss someone.
  2. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  3. Relax your mouth.
Cheek Hook
  1. Place your index finger inside of one cheek.
  2. Use your index finger to pull the cheek outward.
  3. Contract your cheek muscles as your finger pulls outward on your cheek.
  4. Repeat with the other cheek.
Side-to-Side Jaw Movement
  1. Start by opening your mouth wide.
  2. Move your jaw from side-to-side.
  3. Slightly adjust the opening of your mouth.
  4. Move your jaw from side-to-side.
  5. Repeat this exercise moving the jaw from side-to-side as you adjust the opening of your mouth several times.
Open and Close
  1. Tightly close your mouth over your teeth and purse or pucker your lips.
  2. Open your mouth slowly, relaxing the muscles in your jaw and face.
  3. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
Button Hold
  1. Tie a button to the end of a string that is at least 4 inches long.
  2. Place the button in your mouth between your lips and teeth.
  3. Tightly close your lips and pull on the string. Try to keep the button from moving from its position.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Nasal Breathing Exercises

In general, most people breathe through their nose. Snoring is common in people who regularly breathe through their mouths. Nasal breathing exercises improve strength and muscle tone in the mouth and throat area which can encourage breathing through the nose and maintain an open airway during sleep.

Nostril Breathing
  1. Close your lips.
  2. Push your right nostril closed with your index finger or knuckle.
  3. Breathe in through your left nostril.
  4. Push your left nostril closed with your index finger or nostril.
  5. Breathe out through your right nostril. Repeat the exercise five times for each nostril.
Balloon Breathing
  1. Place the open end of a deflated balloon into your mouth.
  2. Breathe in through your nose.
  3. Breathe out through your mouth with enough force to inflate the balloon.
  4. Repeat this exercise five times before removing the balloon from your mouth.

Throat Exercises

Throat muscles can be exercised by singing or pronouncing vowel sounds. 

Taking time each day to pronounce vowel sounds can strengthen throat muscles. You can practice by enunciating the vowels a-e-i-o-u. Pay special attention to exaggerating the sounds. You can also draw out the vowels to make each of them last several seconds. 

Daily singing exercises may also strengthen and tone mouth and throat muscles. Limited research suggests that singing regularly over the course of three months can reduce the frequency, severity, and loudness of snoring as well as improve the symptoms of mild to moderate OSA.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Talk with your doctor if your snoring is affecting your sleep health or the sleep health of your bed partner. Be sure to inform your doctor if you have any of the following risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea:

  • High blood pressure
  • Morning headaches
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Weight gain or obesity
  • Loud, persistent snoring 
  • Gasping or choking for air during sleep

Your doctor may ask you questions about your health history and your sleep to understand if there is an underlying condition causing your snoring. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist or order a sleep study to learn whether your snoring is related to sleep apnea. A specialist may also be recommended if your doctor feels you may benefit from myofunctional therapy.

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