Every night some kind of magic happens in our brain and we lose ourselves to sleep. As we sleep a range of processes occur which restore our ability to function properly, both physically and mentally.

However, many of us do not get the full restorative benefits of sleep because our breathing does not function well as we sleep. Poor breathing during sleep means that sleep is seriously disrupted.

Sleep breathing disorders can range from so-called simple snoring and upper airway resistance syndrome through to full-scale sleep apnea.

During snoring – The structures at the back of the throat vibrate because of turbulence of airflow, producing the characteristic sounds most of us recognize.

In upper airways resistance syndrome and sleep apnea – The breathing actually stops for short periods of time. When this happens frequently and repeatedly, particularly during the deeper and most important stages of sleep, the risk for depression, stress disorders, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and many health problems increases significantly.

Many people do not realize that breathing exercises which correct poor breathing behaviours such as mouth-breathing, breath pattern disorders and hyperventilation can significantly improve snoring, upper airways resistance and sleep apnea.

Recent research about the effect of breathing retraining

Recent research at Pennsylvania State University showed that after 4 weeks of breathing retraining, 75% of participants stopped snoring.

Other research has shown that playing the didgeridoo significantly improved sleep apnea and that people who played double reed wind instruments such as the Oboe, Bassoon and English Horn have a lower risk of developing sleep apnea.

However, not everyone has the desire to learn to play the didgeridoo or a double reed wind instrument, so it’s good to know that breathing exercises and throat exercises can significantly improve sleep apnea.

Some individuals experience dramatic improvements in sleep apnea after just a few weeks of breathing retraining particularly if they have signs of daytime breathing dysfunction. Other individuals find that after learning breathing and other exercises they are better able to tolerate CPAP and that respond better to dental appliances.

More resources

From Dr Rosalba Courtney’s website

How the brain detoxifies using the glymphatic system during sleep


Sleep and breathing disorders in children


Other articles

Breathing exercises for sleep apnea


Risk of sleep apnea lower in double reed wind instrument


Didgeridoo playing as a treatment for sleep apnea


Dr Rosalba Courtney

Dr Rosalba Courtney

Dr. Rosalba Courtney is a highly experienced Osteopath, Naturopath and Breathing Therapist with over 35 years experience. An important part of her work involves helping adults and children with breathing and sleep disorders. She is available by appointment at Lotus Health.

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