Are you a pathological snorer-or your partner? Joining a choir, or taking lessons in singing, may help. A UK study showed a vocal exercise program developed by a choir director helped to minimize snoring.
The clinical trial, carried out by Exeter University and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, showed that singing exercises, which strengthen some muscles of the throat, also alleviated symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which people stop breathing during deep sleep.
In the soft palate and upper throat (the pharyngeal muscles), snoring and obstructive sleep apnea may result from weak muscles.
Serious singers by doing such vocal exercises develop the tone and power of certain muscles.
The study came about because choir director Alise Ojay contacted Malcolm Hilton, an otolaryngologist consultant at Exeter hospital and subdean of Exeter Medical School University.
Dr. Hilton explains:
“Alise told me that a number of people had benefitted from the singing exercise programme she had devised to strengthen the throat muscles. I then set up this trial and the results have been really interesting.”
Hilton reports that millions of people are affected by snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring may not be a life-threatening disease, but it disrupts lives and frequently requires medical advice from the sufferers.
In comparison, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is potentially even more severe. It can cause people to stop breathing during deep sleep, and significantly decrease the quality of sleep.
A recent study showed that mild obstructive sleep apnea may increase the risk of sudden heart death. Dr. Hilton:
“It’s often suspected that OSA may lead to road injuries and high blood pressure.”
The team recruited 60 chronic snorers and 60 people with mild to severe sleep apnea for the study.
- The participants from each group were randomly assigned to either follow a program of singing exercises for three months, or no intervention.
- The self-guided exercise program was provided on a box-set of three audio CDs, and could be completed in around 20 minutes each day.
The outcomes at the end of the trial showed that the regular singing exercises reduced snoring intensity, frequency and loudness, and improved sleep efficiency. There were no modifications of this sort in the participants who were not asked to do the exercises.
Hilton says the exercises weren’t complicated, and over the three-month trial two-thirds of the participants asked to do them accomplished this on most days.
He adds that the results open up a “absolute new path” of alternative treatments without needing to undergo surgery, which is good news for snorers:
“I was open-minded about it. I had no expectations but it was an interesting concept.
There is not already a quick-fix treatment for snoring. It is a condition where, if you could find a non-invasive treatment, that would be very beneficial.”
But for better results Hilton recommends that the exercises should be followed by improvements in lifestyle, such as weight loss. A main contributor to snoring is overweight.
Study reported in July 2013 showed that people singing together in a group synchronized heart rates. Written by Catharine Paddock PhD