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Yoga & Sleep Apnea

author image Allison Obershaw
Allison Obershaw is a certified massage therapist and reiki master with certificates in holistic health and foot reflexology. She runs, practices yoga and meditation, forever remaining a student of it all. In her former life, she earned a bachelor's degree in English and wrote screenplays about Confederate vampires and Las Vegas.
Yoga & Sleep Apnea
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According to the American Lung Association, sleep apnea is an extremely common sleep disorder wreaking havoc on the lives of more than 12 million Americans. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which typically occurs when an airway is blocked or collapsed. The result is that you will literally stop breathing in your sleep, anywhere from several seconds to a few minutes. Practicing yoga can help alleviate symptoms and lessen certain risk factors for developing sleep apnea.

Symptoms, Risks and Complications

Yoga & Sleep Apnea
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Common symptoms of sleep apnea include insomnia, waking up abruptly during the night, waking up with a headache, dry mouth and/or sore throat. Sleep apnea causes drowsiness and lack of concentration during the day, and it can also lead to heart attack, stroke or high blood pressure due to inadequate sleep. Anyone can have sleep apnea, but gender -- men are more likely to have it -- being overweight, genetics, smoking and being over 65 can influence the probability of developing this disorder.

Benefits of Yoga

Yoga & Sleep Apnea
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Yoga may be able to help with some risk factors of sleep apnea, like being overweight. Yoga increases heat in the body and therefore burns calories, potentially causing weight loss. Another way yoga can help is by doing breathing exercises. The breathing exercises will help tone the muscles in your throat that may have been contributing factors to your airway being blocked.

Downward-Facing Dog

Yoga & Sleep Apnea
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One such pose is Downward-Facing dog. It improves digestion, which may contribute to weight loss by metabolizing calories faster. It also reduces fatigue and insomnia, two common complaints of sleep apnea. Start on your hands and knees, ensuring that your knees are below your hips and your fingers are spread out supporting you. Slowly and safely lift your knees off of the floor while exhaling, keeping them bent if necessary. Keep your toes facing forward. Lengthen your legs as much as possible and tilt your pelvis slightly inward while stretching forward with your arms. Stay in the pose between one and three minutes.

Yogic Breathing Technique

Yoga & Sleep Apnea
couple breathing while practicing yoga Photo Credit DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images

Sit comfortably and inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth, with your mouth open wide. Make a "ha" sound as you slowly exhale, feeling the breath in your throat. Close your mouth after several repetitions and then begin inhaling and exhaling through your nose, still maintaining the "ha" sound. Do this for five to eight minutes at a time but no more than 15 minutes. You do not want to cause muscle strain in your throat. This technique helps tone your throat muscles for sleep apnea, and by regulating your breath, it keeps your mind quiet as well, reducing stress.

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