If your spouse complains about your early-­morning habit of singing O Sole Mio in the shower, just explain that it’s better than an all-night concert of wall-shaking snores.

Nearly half of all adults snore occasionally, and about 25% do it all the time when they’re sleeping. What happens: Air passages in the back of the throat tend to sag when you sleep. The movement of air through the narrowed openings triggers vibrations that are heard as snoring.

Anyone can snore, but it tends to be worst in elderly or overweight men.

Singing exercises strengthen and tighten tissues in the throat and soft palate (the area at the back of the roof of the mouth), just as weight lifting tightens flabby arms. British researchers found that people who practiced singing exercises daily for three months slept better and had a reduction in the frequency, severity and loudness of snoring.

The Stop-Snoring Workout

Follow these steps, which include tongue exercises, singing and humming. They can help reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, interruptions in nighttime breathing caused by blocked airways. Do these exercises even if you snore only occasionally because occasional snoring can develop into sleep apnea over time.

Press the tongue firmly (and repeatedly) against the hard palate (the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth). Then press as much of the tongue as possible against the middle of the roof of the mouth…and then against the back. Keep pressing and moving your tongue for about three minutes.

Press the tip of your tongue firmly behind the front teeth while simultaneously pressing the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth. This is difficult to do, but just trying to do it is helpful. 

While holding the tongue against the hard palate, sing each of the vowel sounds—“Aaaa”…“Eeee”…“Iiii”…“Oooo”…and “Uuuu”—for three minutes at a time. While singing the vowel sounds, vary the pitch from high to low. Changes in pitch cause variations in
vibration that exercise the tissues more completely. Just plain singing (that song in the shower!) helps, too.

  • Hum. You can do this for a few minutes throughout the day—for example, when you’re driving or working around the house.
  • Whenever you swallow, try to keep the tongue pressed against the roof of the mouth. You’ll feel tension at the back of your throat.

Forceful Blowing

This is another technique that reduces snoring and sleep apnea.

A few times a day, blow up balloons. Breathe in deeply through your nose, then blow out hard to fill the ­balloons.

If you’re musically inclined—or would enjoy giving it a try—play a wind instrument, such as a trumpet, kazoo or ­didgeridoo (an Australian wind instrument). A study published in British Medical Journal found that people who played the didgeridoo for 15 to 30 minutes daily snored less and also had improvements in sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness.

Important: Be aware that these steps will take at least a few months to work, but the results can be dramatic. I advise patients who struggle with snoring and sleep apnea to do the exercises before considering surgery or other treatments. You can stop doing the exercises when there’s no more snoring.