NCTV Episode 41

Continuing with the series of bitesize health tip videos which can be found here on my YouTube Channel, this episode, includes:-

  • Causes of Sleep Apnoea
  • How to tell if you have it
  • The effects of sleep apnoea on your health
  • How to treat it
  • Face, tongue and mouth exercises to reduce snoring

Transcript

If you’d prefer to read the content within, rather than watch the video, then feel free to read the transcript, as follows:-

Hello and welcome to NCTV Episode 41 and the first of the bright and frosty new year, 2021. Today is all about Sleep Apnoea and what you can do to help it.

So sleep apnoea is when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep. The most common type is called obstructive sleep apnoea (or OSA).

It’s caused by your airways being narrowed while you sleep and this may be linked with obesity, having a large neck, getting older, having other family members with it, smoking and drinking alcohol, having large tonsils or adenoids and sleeping on your back.

To know if you have it, aside from your breathing stopping and starting in your sleep, other symptoms include making gasping, snorting or choking noises, waking up a lot, and loud snoring. If you’re still unsure as to whether you get any these symptoms, just ask someone who may be within ear shot of you when you sleep – if they haven’t already told you all about it that is.

If you don’t have the delightful option of being nagged to about by your partner then another way to find out can be to get referred to a sleep clinic by the GP to test your breathing and heartbeat during sleep.

Some other signs that you may have it are that during the day you may also feel very tired, find it hard to concentrate, have mood swings or a headache when you wake up.

The problem with sleep apnoea is that it can adversely affect your health by leading to high blood pressure, it increases the risk of having a stroke and the risk of having a serious accident caused by tiredness. You may also experience depression, find it difficult to concentrate on work and it can obviously put a strain on your relationship with your partner.

So what can you do about it?

If the symptoms are only mild then treatment is not always necessary but if the tests prove that you do have sleep apnoea then the NHS can provide you with what’s called a CPAP machine which pumps air into a mask you wear over your nose and mouth while you sleep.

Other less common treatments may be to wear a gum shield while you sleep to open up the airways or surgery to help your breathing by removing your tonsils for example.

However, if you’d rather avoid all that, or do something in conjunction with it, then there are some great mouth and throat exercises, backed by science, to help stop snoring and improve mild to moderate cases of OSA. These mouth exercises are also called “myofunctional therapy” or “oropharyngeal exercises” and these help to improve the tone of the muscles around your airways.

Before we get stuck into them though it’s worth noting as with any type of workout, it requires time and effort for these to take effect but when done properly there have been significant reports of less snoring and improved sleep as a result. Existing research suggests to do these for 10mins, 2 or 3 times a day for 3 months to reap the benefits. Bear in mind though that these may be less affective if your snoring is related to alcohol or sedatives.

So firstly there are four tongue exercises and these are also recommended by the Sleep Foundation:-

  1. The first is Tongue Slide, where place the tip of your tongue against the back of your top front teeth. Slowly slide your tongue backward with the tip moving along the roof of your mouth and repeat 5-10 times. This strengthens your tongue and throat muscles.
  2. Secondly, is Tongue Stretch. Stick out your tongue as far as you can. Try to touch your chin with your tongue while looking at the ceiling. Hold for 10 – 15 seconds and increase the duration gradually. Repeat 5 times and this will help to increase tongue strength.
  3. Third is Tongue Push Up – Stick your tongue upward against the roof of your mouth and press your entire tongue against it. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times. This will improve your tongue and soft palate tone and strength.
  4. And the fourth is Tongue Push Down – Put the tip of your tongue against your lower front teeth and then push the back of your tongue flat against the floor of your mouth. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times. This will improve tongue and soft palate tone and strength.

Next we move onto two face exercises:-

  1. Firstly Cheek Hook – where you use a hooked finger to lightly pull your check outward, and then use your facial muscles to pull your cheek back inward. Repeat 10 times on each side and this assists in closure of the mouth while breathing
  2. Secondly, tightly close your mouth by pursing your lips. Then open your mouth, relaxing your jaw and lips. Repeat 10 times and this improves tone and strength of your jaw, facial and throat muscles.

The next exercise is to practice breathing through your nose:-

With your mouth closed and your jaw relaxed, inhale through your nose. Then, take a finger or knuckle and close off one nostril. Breathe out gently through the open nostril and do this about 10 times while alternating between nostrils. You may notice one nostril tends to be more congested than the other, and you can choose to work on breathing through the congested nostril more if need be. This exercise improves nasal breathing, which stabilizes the airway during sleep.

The next exercise is to pronounce your vowels a-e-i-o-u:-

Saying different vowel sounds involves the muscles in your throat, so deliberately repeating these sounds can help tone those muscles.

Repeat the vowel sounds a-e-i-o-u and start by saying each normally, and then adjust how much you stretch out the sound or how rapidly you say the vowel. Repeat the same sound 10 or 20 times in a row, and then change to a different sound. Also, you can combine the sounds and repeat those as well if you like.

The final exercise is singing:-

This activates multiple muscles in the mouth and throat and involves pronouncing diverse sounds, including vowels. Preliminary research has found that focused singing training may cut down on snoring. When singing, try to focus on repeating and forcefully pronouncing individual sounds rather than just singing normal lyrics.

So there you have it and that’s all for today. I’ll see you next time for some more bitesize bits to help your health flourish.

Bye bye for now.