Singing exercises do wonders for snoring and quality of sleep
The solution to the age-old problem of snoring has been right under our noses all along; if you want a decent night's sleep then it might help to sing for it.
A clinical trial at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has found that singing exercises help reduce snoring and its more serious, and even noisier, sister condition, obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
It all began when Exeter-based singing teacher Alise Ojay tested a hunch that a friend's snoring could be helped by throat-toning exercises she had devised for her choir to improve their singing.
She recorded exercises, aimed at strengthening the soft palate at the back of the throat, and distributed them to snorers in a pilot with the Department of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University.
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"I found the exercises really helped some snorers, and most excitingly, some people with sleep apnoea," she said.
When she told consultant otolaryngologist Malcolm Hilton at the RDE about her discovery, he decided to conduct a clinical trial using her three-month course of singing exercises on CD.
Mr Hilton's trial involved 60 patients who were chronic snorers, and 60 patients with mild to moderate sleep apnoea. Half of each group sang the exercises for three months and half did not.
The results showed an improvement in those who did the exercises.
Mr Hilton said he had gone into the research with plenty of curiosity, but no expectations.
"I was open-minded about it, but I wanted to give it a try," he said. "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.
"The conclusion that we came to was that the three-month programme of daily singing exercises reduced the frequency and severity of snoring and improved overall quality of sleep.
"The exercises were easy to perform and two-thirds of people were able to complete the three month programme doing the exercises most days."
The research has just been published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, prompting a rush of orders for Ms Ojay's Singing for Snorers CDs.
"It opens up a whole new avenue of potential treatment which avoids surgery, so it is definitely good news for snorers," said Mr Hilton. "It must be used in conjunction with lifestyle changes. Being overweight, for example, is the biggest single independent predictor of snoring."
Ms Ojay, who has been working on the singing and snoring link since 2002, said she was really excited by the validation which the clinical trial brings to her findings.
One octogenarian suffering from sleep apnoea, who had to wear a special mask, called a C-PAP mask, at night to help him breath in his sleep, was able to discard it after trying her exercises, she said.
"He really went for the singing exercises and had an excellent result," she says. "He was from Arizona, and flew over to Exeter to thank me and he brought his mask."
Her singing exercises were most helpful to those whose snoring or sleep apnoea was due to the slack muscles of advancing age, rather than from being overweight, she said.
"Some people find their snoring gets worse and worse as they age simply because they lose tone in their throat, as we do all over our bodies as we get older. The singing exercises help with that."
And for snorers who diligently practice her exercises, there is another benefit; you might be better able to manage a song. "Many people who have tried the exercises have noticed that it improves their singing voice and they are really chuffed about that," said Ms Ojay.
Alise Ojay's Singing for Snorers CD set has currently sold out but will be available soon, priced at £45 to include P&P, from www.singingforsnorers.com