Oropharyngeal exercises in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea: our experience

Sleep Breath. 2016 Dec;20(4):1193-1201. doi: 10.1007/s11325-016-1332-1. Epub 2016 Mar 18.


Introduction: Oropharyngeal exercises are new, non-invasive, cost effective treatment modality for the treatment of mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea. It acts by increasing the tone of pharyngeal muscles, is more physiological, and effects are long lasting.

Aim of the study: The aim of our present study was to evaluate the effect of oropharyngeal exercises in the treatment of mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea.

Method: Twenty patients of mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) were given oropharyngeal exercise therapy for 3 months divided into three phases in graded level of difficulty. Each exercise had to be repeated 10 times, 5 sets per day at their home. Oropharyngeal exercises were derived from speech-language pathology and included soft palate, tongue, and facial muscle exercises. Anthropometric measurements, snoring frequency, intensity, Epworth daytime sleepiness and Berlin sleep questionnaire, and full polysomnography were performed at baseline and at study conclusion.

Results: Body mass index (25.6 ± 3.1) did not change significantly at the end of the study period. There was significant reduction in the neck circumference (38.4 ± 1.3 to 37.8 ± 1.6) at the end of the study. Significant improvement was seen in symptoms of daytime sleepiness, witnessed apnoea, and snoring intensity. Significant improvement was also seen in sleep indices like minimum oxygen saturation, time duration of Sao2 < 90 %, sleep efficiency, arousal index, and total sleep time N3 stage of sleep at the end of study.

Conclusion: Graded oropharyngeal exercise therapy increases the compliance and also reduces the severity of mild to moderate OSAS.

Keywords: Effectiveness; Obstructive sleep apnoea; Oropharyngeal exercise therapy; Polysomnography.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Argentina
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Facial Muscles / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Tonus / physiology*
  • Oropharynx / physiopathology*
  • Palate, Soft / physiopathology
  • Pharyngeal Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / rehabilitation*
  • Tongue / physiopathology