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Steven Y Park, MD  
Male, 54
New York, NY

Specialties: Sleep-breathing disorders

Interests: Running, Baking, origami
Private Practice
New York, NY
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Can Singing Help Sleep Apnea?

Dec 04, 2008 - 15 comments

breathing exercises








Sleep Apnea

There are a number of programs on the internet that promote programs or products that are said to "cure" sleep apnea. This ranges from singing lessons to didgeridoo playing. Whether or not they work is up for debate, but one interesting thing about all these options is that they involve profound breath control.

One of the key concepts in breathing physiology is that the muscles that control inhalation is activated by the sympathetic nervous system (the stress half of your involuntary nervous system). Muscles that control exhalation is activated by the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation half). In yoga, the act of breathing, called pranayama, emphasizes slow, deep, long, controlled periods of exhalation, relative to a shorter period of inhalation. This is sometimes called the relaxing breath. Therefore, if you spend more time exhaling than inhaling, you're spending more time relaxing. No wonder some people rave about how calm and relaxed they feel after a yoga session.

When you sing (or play a any wind instrument), you're spending much more time exhaling than inhaling—almost a 50 to 1 ratio sometimes. That means that the parasympathetic nervous system is being constantly stimulated, leading to a relaxed state. Yes, you may be exerting yourself somewhat, but you're more relaxed. This may be the reason why many people like to sing—it makes us feel good.

So can singing or playing the didgeridoo help your sleep apnea? It probably won't cure sleep apnea, but by keeping you more relaxed, you may feel less stressed or tired.

Do you feel good when you sing?

Steven Y. Park, M.D., author of Sleep, Interrupted: A physician reveals the #1 reason why so many of us are sick and tired. Endorsed by New York Times best-selling authors Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Mark Liponis, and Mary Shomon.


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by tpinkham, Dec 04, 2008
Yes I feel good when I sing. However, no one will ever hear me.  I will only sing in the car alone, or in the shower (if no one else is home), or on a walk in the county.  I don't see how that will help my sleep apnea.  I do know that I am in love with my C-Pap machine. My husband loves the sound of the machine at night compared to my snoring.

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by Jules77733, Dec 05, 2008
I like singing, too, and I've done it all my life, but that didn't stop me from developing sleep apnea, unfortunately. Now, I'm slowly having more trouble breathing, in addition to a flurry of other unpleasant symptoms, and no one knows why. It's odd, because I've noticed that I have to "think" about breathing more throughout the course of the day, otherwise I "forget" to take a breath. I'm tired all the time, as a result, to the point where 400mg of Provigil doesn't even do much to help me stay awake during the day.

I don't think my c-pap machine works much for me even though I'm using it correctly, and my ENT wasn't able to figure out why I have OSA despite being normal weight, female, and only 22-years-old. She said she couldn't find an obstruction, but noted that I slept better when using c-pap (though how much better, she did not comment). I do have a fairly sizable pineal cyst encompassing my pineal gland, but every doctor tells me that's nothing, too.

If only singing worked...I'd sing my heart out every day.

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by ireneo, Dec 05, 2008
I wonder if the mouth and throat control used during singing would help as well. I've read as we get older the throat and tongue muscles become more lax and that's often a cause of snoring. Isn't that laxity also a part of apnea? Who knows, if good muscle tone helps a little, go for it; sing like a bird (or a frog). Kind of like heart disease - it isn't just one thing we should do for heart health; it's a multitude of things.

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by R Glass, Dec 05, 2008
My son has bad Sleep Apnea.
He is the lead singer in a Rock Band. They usually play one show a week and try to rehearse twice a week.
In his case, I wonder if he is over doing it and is causing reverse action.

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by Lissybabe, Dec 06, 2008
I LOVE to sing, and have sang in groups since I was 5 years old.  My family had a singing group when I was growing up, so we sang all the time, and I just never stopped.  However, mine was a family of snorers, later two of us diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Two more should go in and be diagnosed, because from the snoring and snorting it's pretty obvious.  I just started using my CPAP last Feb., and it has made a big difference for me, in that when I'm awake, I'm definitely awake, not so sleepy (although because of other issues I still sleep a lot).  I have also found that the CPAP has actually improved my singing and voice quality.  So, while perhaps singing may have kept it from getting as bad as fast, I don't think it prevents it.  Afterall, pre-CPAP days, I snored so bad I was once mistaken for a car stuck in the snow!

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by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Dec 06, 2008

I'm not surprised to hear that your singing voice is better on CPAP. Untreated OSA leads to reflux of stomach juices into your throat, which can irritate your vocal folds. I do agree, singing (or playing wind instrument) doesn't prevent onset of sleep apnea, but it can make you feel better.

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by Nate3000, Dec 08, 2008
There was a report of a clinical trial published in the BMJ that showed that regular didgeridoo playing improved sleep apnea symptoms. It's here: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj%3b332/7536/266

Avatar universal
by Butterfield88, Dec 08, 2008
Singing is wonderful.  I sing to relax myself.  If one is tense ones breathing is off.   When we sing we exhale autmatically and we are forced to breathe in again.  Sing for about an hour at the top of your voice now and you will feel relaxed.   I think I am answering my own problem here which is not being able to sleep.   I am going to sing for an hour before bed and see if it works.  Can't think why I didn't think of it before. duh!

Avatar universal
by acousticbalance, Dec 13, 2008

I don't have sleep apnoea but I have this exercise programme which was designed for snorers and is undergoing clinical trials to measure success with sleep apnoea. I've used it myself to improve tone and my singing performance.


It's not just any old singing - but specific exercises "to target and tone the areas of the throat where the snoring vibration can take place. They focus on the muscles that control the soft palate, the palatopharyngeal arch, the movement of the tongue (especially forwards and back) and the naso-pharynx, which is the region of the pharynx up behind the soft palate which leads to the nose. The exercises use sounds and tunes selected for the strong movements they cause in these areas. I'm a speech and language therapist - it this makes sense to me - but you do have to stick with the programme, which has a series of progressive exercises.

I find that singing is relaxing and uplifting and improving breathing capacity has loads of health benefits - I sing with others as often as I can and I think that's great for a feel good factor too!

Avatar universal
by bet643, Dec 14, 2008
I have sleep apnea, and I sing all of the time. However, my voice is not quite the same since my total thyroidectomy.. So I try not to sing too loud around  people. LOL  But I do feel great when I do, which is good for mind, body and soul.

Avatar universal
by AndyM64, Dec 14, 2008
To Jules77733

I had sleep apnea. Was waking up feeling like I'd been drinking the night before. I had inflamed lining inside my nose related to a chlamydia infection. It cleared up after I was diagnosed and treated for the Chlamydia. You may find there is something in your diet, your system or your environment that is affecting your health, look carefully at wha tyour immune system has to deal with.

A simple test is anti-hystamin eye drops. You can get them from pharmacy. The eyes link to your sinuses and nose, and the drops if they have an effect will tell you that this is something to do with your immune system. Therefore you need to identify the pathogen. This could be a result of infection or alergen.

Also look at your other symptoms for common route cause.

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by kmathis70, Dec 14, 2008
my son is incarcerate with my neighbors husband. well he snores horrible and my son say he stops breathing for 36 seconds or more at a time what can help this.

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Dec 14, 2008
He probably has obstructive sleep apnea. He should get medical help and a sleep evaluation.

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Dec 14, 2008
He probably has obstructive sleep apnea. He should get medical help and a sleep evaluation.

Avatar universal
by 1612dingaan, Oct 23, 2011
What is the effect of sleep apnea on the voice....vocal chords???? Or muscles to the larynx????

Can it cause a dyness or rigidness??


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