Can Singing Help Your Sleep Apnea?

December 4, 2008

There are a number of programs on the internet that promote programs or products that are said to "cure" sleep apnea. This ranges from singing lessons to didgeridoo playing. Whether or not they work is up for debate, but one interesting thing about all these options is that they involve profound breath control. 


One of the key concepts in breathing physiology is that the muscles that control inhalation is activated by the sympathetic nervous system (the stress half of your involuntary nervous system). Muscles that control exhalation is activated by the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation half). In yoga, the act of breathing, called pranayama, emphasizes slow, deep, long, controlled periods of exhalation, relative to a shorter period of inhalation. This is sometimes called the relaxing breath. Therefore, if you spend more time exhaling than inhaling, you’re spending more time relaxing. No wonder some people rave about how calm and relaxed they feel after a yoga session.


When you sing (or play a any wind instrument), you’re spending much more time exhaling than inhaling—almost a 50 to 1 ratio sometimes. That means that the parasympathetic nervous system is being constantly stimulated, leading to a relaxed state. Yes, you may be exerting yourself somewhat, but you’re more relaxed. This may be the reason why many people like to sing—it makes us feel good. 


So can singing or playing the didgeridoo help your sleep apnea? It probably won’t cure sleep apnea, but by keeping you more relaxed, you may feel less stressed or tired.


Do you feel good when you sing?

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