Brazilian researchers reported that a series of throat exercises, along with breathing exercises and nasal saline irrigation, could improve signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Volunteers with obstructive sleep apnea were given exercises which were similar to those used traditionally for speech therapy. This randomized study showed that the overall AHI dropped 39% in the study group after 3 months. Daytime sleepiness, snoring, sleep quality and neck size were all significant improved. The sham control group underwent breathing exercises and nasal irrigation only, and there were no significant changes.
These are interesting results which are in line with with my limited past experience using tongue exercises—some people do improve. I started a research project may years ago with Janet Bennett, a speech pathologist who’s the inventor of IJustWantToSleep.com, but had to cancel the study to to various logistical issues with follow-up and compliance. However, there definitely were a significant number of patients that did benefit subjectively to various degrees.
There are other reports of using singing lessons or playing the didgeridoo to strengthen tongue and throat muscles. I don’t think these can replace standard ways of treating obstructive sleep apnea, but if a patient is motivated and is looking for alternative options, then I’ll recommend this.