Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tongue Aerobics Prescribed for a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep Apnoea sufferers may be able to alleviate their condition by undertaking 30 minutes of daily tongue exercises, according to a recent US study.

What is sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea occurs when the walls of the throat block off the upper airway. Breathing stops for between a few seconds and one minute until the brain registers the drop in oxygen and the sleeper wakes, typically snorting or gasping, and resumes sleep almost immediately.

In severe cases this cycle of apnoeas and broken sleep can be repeated hundreds of times each night, yet most sufferers are unaware they have the condition, and wake feeling tired and in need of further sleep.

About the Study
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine last year, found patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), who performed 30 minutes of oral exercises each day, reduced the condition’s severity by 39% over a three month period.

The study’s authors said while the “most effective treatment” in severe OSAS cases is widely considered to be continuous positive airway pressure, its successful application for moderately affected patients produced “variable results”.

The Exercises
So-called oropharyngeal exercises involving the tongue, soft palate and facial muscles, reduced neck circumference and daytime sleepiness, and decreased snoring frequency and intensity, when compared to those in the control group undertaking deep breathing sessions.

Why does sleep apnoea matter?
The Alfred Sleep Disorders and Ventilatory Failure Service identifies obstructive sleep apnoea as a “very dangerous” medical condition which can lead to behavioural disorders, depression, intellectual deterioration, lost libido and “increased incidence of car accidents, work accidents and sick days”.

The Australian Lung Foundation describes sleep apnoea as potentially “life-threatening. It is a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. All these conditions occur more frequently in people with OSA.”

Around 5% of Australians are estimated to have obstructive sleep apnoea, with men three times more likely to be effected than women, and approximately one in four men over 30 experiencing the disorder. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause in child sufferers.

Other ways to combat sleep apnoea
Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome is currently relieved by weight loss and reduced alcohol consumption in mild cases, to wearing a CPAP mask or a mouthguard to bed, or undertaking upper airway surgery.

Oropharyngeal exercises are unlikely to be adopted by sleep disorder practitioners in the short term, as the study is only the first randomised control study of its kind.

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