Can Vocal Exercises Improve Snoring?

If you’re a chronic snorer, you’ve probably tried more than a few different treatments. One option you might not be aware of involve vocal exercises such as singing and repeating certain sounds. These have been the subject of studies and clinical trials, with some surprising benefits for reducing snoring.

What Causes Snoring?

The main reason for snoring involves the muscles in the throat. Over time, the throat muscles can weaken and this can pave the way for chronic snoring. They can sometimes relax too much and collapse into the throat while you’re asleep.  For a lot of chronic snorers, it just means that the tissues and muscles in the throat vibrate a bit more than normal and you become a very noisy sleeper but at its most severe, it can lead to an obstruction of the throat and sleep apnea.

Is Snoring Dangerous?

Snoring is generally not dangerous

 

For most people, snoring is more of a nuisance (usually more for other people than yourself!) than a major problem.  

Most people just experience the noisy (but otherwise harmless) vibrations that we know as snoring but for others, it can be more serious.

Some people develop sleep apnea, which can have a bigger effect on your health and wellbeing. This happens when your breathing is interrupted while you’re asleep, usually because the tissues in the throat have collapsed to the extent that they have affected your ability to breathe.  It sounds scary and

Some of the problems that sleep apnea can cause or contribute to, include:

  • Sleep quality – Sleep apnea can mean that you wake up a lot in the night (although you may not actually be aware of this) and feel tired during the day.
  • Oxygen levels – People with sleep apnea can stop breathing repeatedly in the night – sometimes hundreds of times. This can affect how much oxygen travels around your body and reaches your brain.
  • High blood pressure and heart problems
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Headaches

You can see why it’s a good idea to look at strengthening the throat muscles so that sleep apnea is less of a risk!

Singing and Snoring

Singing may help snoring

If you’re a chronic snorer, you’ll often be advised to try lifestyle remedies such as nasal strips, which aim to widen the nasal passages. These are often a waste of time and a lot of people don’t get on with them. The main reason why they’re not successful is that don’t do much to tackle the reasons why snoring most commonly occurs -notably, weak muscles in the throat.

If weak and untoned throat muscles are the culprit, what happens if you try to make them stronger? This is exactly what some studies have been trying to determine and they have used singing to test it out. Singing was chosen because you need to have fairly strong throat muscles to sing well and researchers were keen to find out whether chronic snorers could strengthen their throat muscles and reduce their snoring as a result.

Studies

In 2000, a pilot study at the  looked at whether singing has any effect on snoring. Before the study started, the 20 participants had their snoring recorded for 7 nights and this was repeated at the end of the study to  see if anything had changed. For the study itself, they were taught specific singing techniques and exercises and were asked to perform these for 20 minutes per day for the next 3 months.

The idea behind the study was to increase muscle tone in the throat. Most participants did reduce their snoring, especially if they were not overweight and had only developed snoring problems as they had got older.

In 2013, a clinical study carried out by the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital also included 60 patients with mild sleep apnea, as well as 60 people with chronic snoring issues. They were also asked to perform singing exercises for 20 minutes per day over a 3 month period. By the end of the study period, most participants found that their snoring was less frequent and lower in volume than before. Their sleep quality was also better.

Another study compared semi-professional choir singers and people who didn’t sing at all. They wanted to see whether the trained singers were less affected by snoring than their non-singing counterparts. To begin with, both groups completed questionnaires and their partners were asked to comment on their snoring.  It had similar results to the other studies, with the singers demonstrating lower on the Snoring Scale Score (SSS) than the non-singers.

Can Singing Help My Snoring?

As you can see, the studies that have been done so far have shown some very promising results for reducing snoring but for sleep apnea, it does depend which type you have.

For Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), singing is increasingly being used as a way to tone up your throat muscles and avoid the need for invasive surgery.

If you have Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), it’s a lot less likely to work well for your snoring as the issue here is faulty signals from the brain, rather than weak throat muscles.  A deviated septum and other nasal problems are also unlikely to benefit from singing.

You’ll get the most benefit if you commit to doing singing exercises for at least 20 minutes per day and making them a regular part of your day. When you do them isn’t that important, just as long as you’re consistent in doing them every day.

Some of the things you can do to make singing more effective for reducing snoring include:

  • Building things up slowly and not being too enthusiastic at the beginning so you don’t strain or damage your vocal chords
  • Singing from the back of the mouth is particularly effective at strengthening the soft palate muscles
  • Stressing the sounds you’re singing
  • Don’t feel disheartened if your snoring doesn’t improve  straight away – it took 8 weeks for patients in some of the studies to start seeing reductions in their snoring

How the Soundly App Can Help

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Singing isn’t your only option for strengthening the muscles and tissues in the throat. The same type of vocal exercises are being used in our very own Soundly app, which involves doing fun voice-controlled therapy that you play as games.  

Just like the singing approach, it helps to address the underlying reasons why you snore. The sounds that you make while playing the games help to target particular muscles that are more likely to become weaker – much like the specific sounds made in the singing exercises. Think of it as “pushups for your tongue”!

As with singing, it’s not an overnight cure for snoring and you can expect it to take around 6 weeks before your throat muscles become strong enough for you to start noticing a difference. Because it works on the same basis as singing, the results are pretty similar too. In a small scale 2016 clinical trial, participants reduced their snoring by around 20% on average but in some cases, that jumped to 60%.

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