Snoring is the noise of the soft palate primarily (2) and other loose tissue in the mouth, nose and throat vibrating on the in-breath during sleep (3).
Snoring is very common, affecting around 60% of men and 40% of women by the age of sixty (4, 5). It can be a serious problem within relationships and a social embarrassment. Partners can be driven to sleep in separate rooms, and difficulties arise when staying in hotels and with friends. Furthermore there is growing evidence from medical research that snoring is also a health issue. In addition to daytime sleepiness (6, 7), and the attendant increased risk of accident (8), there is an association between snoring and an increased likelihood of high blood pressure (9, 10), heart disease (11, 12) and stroke (12).
Simple snoring, where the obstruction is partial, can develop into sleep apnoea where the obstruction is total (19, 20). On the in-breath the soft palate, back of the tongue and walls of the throat collapse back and completely obstruct the airway. This causes the sufferer to stop breathing, sometimes for many seconds, until their body's alarm system causes them to snort and partially wake themselves, enabling them to take a breath. Repeated apnoeas throughout the night leave the individual starved both of oxygen and deep sleep. Presently treatment for severe cases consists of wearing a mask throughout the night which blows air down the throat forcing the airway to remain open. (These are called C-PAP machines which stands for continuous positive airway pressure.)
If you suspect you have sleep apnoea you should see your doctor as it can be a dangerous condition if left untreated.
Snoring is caused by a narrowing or obstruction of the airway (3). This increases the suction on any loose tissue in the throat causing it to vibrate noisily.
Commonly it is the soft palate which both obstructs the airway and vibrates (2). If the soft palate lacks tone it will flop back across the throat and cause an obstruction. The lungs will then demand a stronger inspiration which will suck the soft palate back further. In addition, wherever the in-breath is restricted it will move more rapidly and therefore be at a lower or 'negative' pressure (the Bernoulli principle). Differences in pressure mean yet more suction (2). So a flaccid soft palate is predisposed to be sucked across the throat where it flutters in the in-breath like a flag in the wind.
The airway can also be obstructed by the tongue, if it is large or tends to fall backwards, and by aggravating factors such as large tonsils (2, 13). Here, restricted and turbulent in its flow, the breath triggers noisy vibration wherever there is lax tissue in its path. If the breath is very constricted, even tissue that might have had sufficient tone to resist a gentler breath can be forced into vibration. Hence most people will snore when they have a cold and their noses are bunged up.
· Increased age
Muscle tone in the oral cavity tends to decrease with age (2, 14, 21, 22, 23, 24). Many people who are not particularly overweight start to snore in middle age simply because this is when our muscles lose their youthful firmness unless regularly exercised. Our upper throat muscles are no exception and, if their tone is poor, slack tissue at the back of the throat is prone to vibrate in the in-breath causing the snoring noise.
· Being overweight
Deposits of fat, on the soft palate and walls of the throat, narrow the throat and are themselves inclined to vibrate (21).
· Alcohol consumption
Induces further relaxation of the muscles that stabilise the pharynx (24).
· Sleeping lying on the back
Encourages a lax soft palate and / or tongue to flop back across the throat (24).
Increases mucous production in the nose and throat and causes swelling / irritation of the airway (24).
· Nasal congestion
Increases the pressure of the breath on any loose tissue or forces mouth-breathing which again produces a more forceful in-breath than breathing through a clear nose (25).
· Enlarged tonsils and / or adenoids
Narrows the throat increasing the force of the breath on lax tissue (13).
Neural receptors sense the negative pressure of inspiration and trigger the muscles of the upper airway, in particular the palatal and tongue muscles, to tighten to help keep the airway open (14, 15, 16). In sleep, this reflex is reduced, and whilst non-snorers retain sufficient tone to resist the air-flow and keep their throats open, snorers do not (14, 17). Without this muscle tone, lax tissue collapses into the throat where it may cause turbulence and vibration (14, 18). So it would seem that in order to resist collapse and obstruction of the airway - the source of snoring - the more residual tone left in the pharynx during sleep the better (14).
It is vital in singing to have good muscle control over the soft palate and upper throat. These are the very 'pharyngeal' muscles which, when lacking in tone, can cause snoring. Singers use singing exercises to develop 'pharyngeal fitness' (26, 27).
Surgical interventions to treat snoring include removing tissue from the upper throat or toughening it by creating scar tissue. Compared to surgical intervention Singing for Snorers offers a harmless, healthy, non-invasive, inexpensive, even enjoyable way to restore the throat's tone. And indeed for those wary of starting to snore, it offers a way to prevent tone loss from occurring. Furthermore singing helps improve breathing and strengthens the diaphragm.
It is especially important for snorers, and critically important for those suffering from sleep apnoea, to keep their breathing apparatus healthy: they will already be suffering from reduced oxygen intake and need a fit diaphragm to keep on drawing in air despite experiencing an obstruction.
If you can speak then you can sing! If you haven't sung since your school days you'll find it's just a matter of practice. Indeed, over time, the exercises should improve your vocal strength, tone and agility.
As for singing in tune, this is not critical to the exercise of your pharyngeal muscles but may improve your morale! Matching pitch is a skill like any other and can be learnt at any age if you missed out on early training. The most important things are listening and practice. This exercise programme provides an ideal opportunity for both!
For the vast majority of people singing is a healthy pursuit and one that is positively good for both body and mind; but if you have a health problem that you think might be affected adversely by energetic singing, do look after yourself and consult your doctor before starting these exercises.
The Singing for Snorers exercises are specifically designed for snorers 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 (See diagram), 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. Their long-term aim is pharyngeal fitness: a toned, athletic pharynx that is no longer predisposed to collapse and vibrate in sleep; and which is also wider, resulting in a gentler, less turbulent breath. Of equal importance, the exercises are designed to be fun and to raise the spirits!
Here's an example of a sound used to tone the soft palate:
If you make the sound "ung-gah" you will feel your soft palate come down and touch the back of your tongue on the "ung" and spring up and away on the "gah". Now imagine singing this sound energetically over and over to simple tunes which, progressively from CD1 to CD3, make increased demands on the muscles supporting your soft palate.
Singing for Snorers also uses a variety of specific sounds and tunes to work the palatopharyngeal arch, the tongue and the nasopharynx. Each exercise has a different instrumental accompaniment and a guiding voice to sing along with. While the singing is simple and repetitive, the complex accompaniments make the whole experience more satisfying and enjoyable. Last but not least the whole programme is delivered in a friendly step by step manner.
The video at the top of the homepage shows some of the Singing for Snorers exercises in action.
Singing for Snorers comprises 3 graded CDs and a 48 page booklet providing information on snoring, the exercise programme and, as a visual aid, all the sounds used in the exercises. Each CD contains clear verbal instructions and an opportunity to practise the sounds and tunes. A straight run through of the exercise programme is placed at the beginning of each CD for easy daily access.
The CDs are practised sequentially at your own pace, but generally for at least one month each. You sing through the exercises once a day. When you are familiar with the programme this will take 12 minutes for the first CD and 18 for the second and third.
The exercises can be practised any time of day, so find what works best for you. As they tend to be energising, some users have reported that singing them in the morning sets them up mentally and vocally for the day ahead.
As for where to sing them - you'll need to be by a CD player and, be warned, the sounds you will make have been chosen for their therapeutic effect and not for their exceptional beauty (alas…), so you will definitely need a sense of humour and either a secret place or an understanding and supportive family.
New in the 4th edition (released August 2016): The 3-way plastic jewel case has been replaced with a more tactile and environmentally friendly cardboard clamshell box. A "Getting Started" guide adds an extra prompt to read the booklet first and then go to the right track for your audio induction. The CDs are now housed in individual card sleeves. On the back of CD1's sleeve there is a Checklist to help guide your progress over the first month. On the back of CD2 and CD3's sleeves there is an "Oomphometer": a bespoke scale designed to help you focus on making the most of your exercise sessions. Finally a progress chart has been added so you can ... chart your progress!
New in the 5th edition (released January 2021): The 48-page booklet has been edited to include more information on singing technique to gradually incorporate into your practise, which will help 'Maximize the Therapeutic Effect'.
Since the primary action of the exercises is to tone the pharyngeal muscles, it will be clear that the programme is aimed at snorers who are snoring precisely because, or at least mainly because, their pharyngeal muscles are lax!
People who have recently started to snore because of loss of tone in the pharyngeal muscles are in the category expected to benefit the most. It shouldn't take too much effort to get their muscles back in trim! People who started snoring because of lax muscles ten, twenty or even thirty years ago are likely to have to work that much harder and longer at the exercises but would still be expected to benefit.
For overweight snorers it is clear that the exercises will not preferentially remove fat from the pharynx; however, they will tone the pharyngeal muscles. So combining the singing exercises with diet and aerobic exercise should make a very good combination treatment.
People who have snored since childhood are likely to be snoring for anatomical reasons: for example, their airway may be obstructed because of having a narrow neck, enlarged tonsils or elongated uvula; or by polyps or a deviated nasal septum after a broken nose (28); or their breathing may be restricted by allergy (28). Others may have a 'lazy' soft palate, never giving the pharyngeal muscles adequate exercise to keep the soft palate from obstructing the airway. While Singing for Snorers will clearly address an under-used soft palate, it has been more surprising to receive feedback from customers reporting reduced snoring even though they have snored since they were children and probably primarily as a result of anatomical obstructions which will not and cannot respond to exercise. It would seem that in some such cases at least, increasing the tone of the throat muscles can be enough to make a critical difference to the overall level of obstruction, and therefore turbulence, in the throat. In other words even though the uvula may be particularly long or the tonsils especially large, in some cases by toning the throat muscles, these unchangeable structures may no longer have such a critical impact on the flow of breath along the airway, presumably because there is now more space and firmer tissue around them. Please note this is a more cheery answer to this question than used to be here. The update and increased cheer seemed necessary to reflect the reality of the positive feedback from customers in this category especially since enquiries were also being received from people who were asking whether they were, to quote one such gentleman, "anatomically doomed". With any luck (and a lot of singing!) it may not be so.
Yes. Customers have reported improved tone, agility and increased range in their singing voices as well as finding that their voice is stronger and tires less easily.
Yes. The exercise programme is complete within itself but occasionally queries arise. Alise offers email support to all her customers and tries her best to reply within 3 days, though (very occasionally ...) she has a holiday!
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