The effect of oropharyngeal exercise in patients with moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea using CPAP: a randomized controlled study

Sleep Breath. 2022 Jun;26(2):567-574. doi: 10.1007/s11325-021-02423-y. Epub 2021 Jun 24.


Purpose: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is an important public health problem. Beyond common treatment options, solution-oriented options are needed. Oropharyngeal exercise training may be a research area in this respect. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of oropharyngeal exercise (OPE) in addition to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy in patients diagnosed with OSA.

Methods: Patients with moderate and severe OSA were screened from the electronic database of our hospital and 41 patients (20: exercise group; 21: control group) were included in the study. Each patient was assessed with CPAP usage time, maximal voluntary ventilation (MVV), maximum inspiratory and expiratory pressure (MIP-MEP), neck circumference, body mass index (BMI), waist-hip ratio, Epworth sleepiness score, Pittsburgh sleep quality index (PSQI), and short-form health survey (SF-36) in the first visit. The OPE was prescribed in addition to CPAP for the exercise group and performed by the patients for 3 months. At the end of the third month, groups were re-assessed with the same parameters.

Results: Most of the patients were men, and the mean age of the study population was 51.9 ± 7.4; the mean apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) in the last polysomnography report was 53.3 ± 27.4. In the exercise group, MVV (p = 0.003), MIP (p = 0.002), MEP (p = 0.024), and SF-36 energy/fatigue (p = 0.020) were observed to increase while the total PSQI score (p = 0.036) decreased. The neck circumference (p = 0.006) and BMI (p = 0.013) were found to be significantly decreased in the exercise group.

Conclusions: We found that OPE training may have improved respiratory muscle strength as well as sleep quality and health-related quality of life in the exercise group. OPE along with CPAP therapy may be recommended in moderate and severe OSA patients who are willing to participate.

Keywords: CPAP; Health-related quality of life; Obstructive sleep apnea; Oropharyngeal exercise; Sleep quality.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure* / methods
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Quality of Life
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / therapy