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The Role of Myofunctional Therapy in Treating Sleep Apnea and Snoring

Snoring can be a major annoyance to both the snorer and those around them; but, more importantly, it can be a sign of a more serious sleeping disorder – Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This condition occurs when the airway in the back of the throat becomes blocked during sleep, due to a variety of reasons. While a CPAP machine is the most common treatment option for severe cases of OSA, there is another, less invasive alternative known as Myofunctional Therapy. In this article, we will discuss what Myofunctional Therapy is, and how it can help treat sleep apnea and snoring.

What is Myofunctional Therapy?

Myofunctional Therapy is a type of specialized physical therapy that is aimed at correcting and restoring the movement of the muscles in the face and mouth. It is a non-invasive approach, with sessions typically lasting 30-60 minutes, and it can be performed in the comfort of your own home.

During the therapy, the therapist will instruct the individual on a series of exercises designed to improve strength, range of motion, and coordination of the muscles in the mouth, face, and throat. Additionally, the therapists work to provide individuals with proper breathing and oral posture techniques. When practiced regularly, Myofunctional Therapy can lead to improvements in speech, breathing, swallowing, and overall function of the orofacial system.

How Can Myofunctional Therapy Help Treat OSA and Snoring?

When snoring occurs, it is because the flow of air is obstructed in the back of the throat due to the relaxation of the soft tissues surrounding the airway. This same process also plays a role in OSA, where the airway is obstructed completely, leading to pauses in breathing during sleep.

Myofunctional Therapy can help in the treatment of both snoring and OSA because exercises targeted at the muscles in the mouth can help to strengthen the muscles and improve the tone of the soft tissues, reducing the likelihood of the airway becoming obstructed. Additionally, exercises designed to help individuals develop proper oral posture and breathing techniques may lead to less shallow breathing patterns which can lead to OSA.

What Research Says About the Efficacy of Myofunctional Therapy

Myofunctional Therapy is not a new treatment option for OSA and snoring; however, research on its efficacy has been limited until recently.

A study conducted by Guilleminault et al. (2015) found that regular practice of Myofunctional Therapy exercises led to a significant reduction in snoring and OSA episodes in the majority of participants. Furthermore, the research team found that participants who practiced the exercises had improvements in daytime sleepiness, overall quality of sleep, and overall health.

Another study, conducted by Camacho et al. (2019), sought to determine the effectiveness of Myofunctional Therapy in addition to other treatment options for OSA. The research team found that a combination of Myofunctional Therapy and mandibular advancement devices (MAD) was associated with larger improvements in OSA symptoms compared to either treatment alone.

The Benefits of Myofunctional Therapy for the Treatment of OSA and Snoring

While research on the efficacy of Myofunctional Therapy continues to evolve, its non-invasive approach is appealing to many over more invasive surgical options. Additionally, regular practice of Myofunctional Therapy exercises may lead to improvements in other breathing-related issues, such as sleep apnea and snoring, and can even lead to overall improvements in speech, swallowing, and oral muscle tone.

Myofunctional Therapy should be viewed as a complement to other treatment options for OSA and snoring, and it is important to always consult with a healthcare professional before starting an alternative treatment for sleep disorders. However, based on current research, it is clear that Myofunctional Therapy can offer individuals suffering from OSA and snoring with an effective, non-invasive solution for managing and improving their symptoms.