Byline: A. Mooventhan, L. Nivethitha
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder of upper airway collapse that occurs during sleep and leads to disrupted sleep and oxygen desaturation. OSA occurs due to a dysfunction of upper airway dilating muscles, especially genioglossus that constitutes a major portion of the tongue. To avoid the closure of the upper airway during sleep, a sufficient amount of genioglossus muscle contraction is essential. Thus, in case of genioglossus muscle dysfunction, upper airway collapse occurs due to insufficient muscle contraction. Muscle training exercises or hypoglossal nerve stimulation are commonly employed for those affected by upper airway muscle dysfunction. Yoga practices such as Sukshma Vyayama, Kechari Mudra, and Sheetali Pranayama (where we use the tongue) might help to improve OSA through stimulating the hypoglossal nerve and improving the strength of genioglossus.
For some patients, accumulation of fluid (edema) around the neck could be a therapeutic target because it causes narrowing of pharyngeal airway lumen. Practice of yogic cleansing techniques such as Vamana Dhauti/Kunjal Kriya or a simple saltwater gargling might help in reducing the fluid retention around the pharynx and thus widen the airway lumen.
Increased body weight and reduced lung functions are major risk factors for OSA. Magnetic resonance imaging findings suggest that fat deposited within the tongue reduces the function of the genioglossus muscle. Obesity increases the risk of OSA by...