5 Ways Exercise Can Help Sleep Apnea

by Amy Morris

Sleep apnea, also known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious health condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea is associated with several risk factors, including being overweight.


OSA affects as much as 15% of the population, and if it is left untreated can could cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and an early death.

There are two types of OSA distinguished by different breathing interruptions;


Apnea – this is where the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse enough to cause complete blockage of the airway, and when airflow is blocked for 10 seconds or more.

Hypopnea – this is a partial blockage of the airway that results in an airflow reduction of more than 50% for 10 seconds or more.

Obstructive sleep apnea is different from rarer forms of sleep apnea such as central sleep apnea which is caused by the brain forgetting to breathe during sleep.


Read below for the many ways exercise can help improve your sleep apnea!

#1 Brisk Walking & Weight Training

There have been several new studies demonstrating clearly that people who are more physically active sleep longer and reach a deeper state of sleep than when compared to those who are sedentary.

According to one of the studies carried out by the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Sleep Medicine, adults with sleep apnea cut the severity of this disorder by 25% which is as much as certain kinds of surgery often prescribed for the treatment of the condition.


Christopher Kline, PhD who is a postdoctoral scholar in the department of psychiatry for the university said,

“The most compelling point of the research was that this 25% reduction was achieved without any reduction in body weight.”

Those in Kline’s sleep apnea exercise group walked briskly for 30 to 40 minutes for four days each week and participated in resistance training on two days. After three months, the number of times that participants in the exercise group stopped breathing at night dropped from an average of 32 to 25 in the exercise group.


#2 Losing weight

Many previous studies have shown that losing weight can improve sleep apnea. One of the more recent studies that demonstrate this found for obese men, dramatic weight loss can be an effective way to improve moderate to severe sleep apnea, according to scientists at Karolinska Institutet. Men with severe sleep apnea when the study began benefited most from weight loss.

#3 Reduces Day Time Sleepiness

A common side effect of sleep apnea is day time sleepiness. In the same study carried out above by Christopher Kline at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Sleep Medicine, the research team here concluded that upon separate analysis on the same study volunteers, exercise also improved daytime sleepiness, decreased fatigue, and sharpened thinking compared to a program of light stretching.

#4 Throat Exercises

According to a study carried out by the Journal of Clinical Otorhinolaryngology, exercising the throat muscles can provide a non-invasive and effective treatment for patients living with obstructive sleep apnea, so it doesn’t have to only be common types of exercising!


According to the research team here, 6 months and 12 months later, the effective rates of treatment group were 31.48% and 44.44%, among which the effective rates in mild and moderate patients of treatment group were 44.74% and 63.16%. Before treatment the mark of Epworth sleep scale was 7.67, 6 month and 12 month later the marks were 3.54 and 3.25.

So from these results the research team was able to conclude that exercising larynx and genioglossus is one kind of non-invasive and effective method that is beneficial to people who do not wish to have surgery, and for those who are more fragile like older patients. Exercising larynx and genioglossus can be considered as remedial treatment of OSA to surgery and other therapy also.

#5 Improves Sleep Quality

Every patient living with OSA would love to get improved sleep quality, to help them cope better during the day with simple everyday tasks we without the condition take for granted. Exercise may be able to offer a helping hand here also.


As a recent study published in the Journal of Sleep concluded that exercise training had moderate treatment efficacy for the reduction of AHI (apnea-hypopnea index) in sedentary overweight/obese adults, which suggests that exercise may be beneficial for the management of OSA beyond simply facilitating weight loss.

There Are Many Natural Treatments for Sleep Apnea Patients

So don’t feel you are out of options if you have any form of sleep apnea, as there are many options you should discuss with your doctor or naturopathic doctor that could go on to improve the condition.

As can be seen above by simply engaging in weekly, regular exercise, over time, you too could experience positive improvements to your overall sleep and health which will improve your overall quality of life.