Sleep Apnoea and your tongue

  • Urgent news for heavy snorers
  • Is your tongue showing this danger sign?
  • If so, here’s how to reduce sleep apnoea and improve your breathing at night

Here’s a weird thought…

But could your tongue be overweight?

I’m not talking about a cosmetic vanity issue here…

This isn’t about fat-shaming your tongue.

As far as I know, it’s not common for people to sit around gossiping about how fat someone’s tongue has become.

“I saw Ray Collins for the first time in years, and WOW has his tongue put on a load of weight.”

“I wish Ray Collins would lose some pounds off his tongue. He’d look SO much better.”

“I thought Ray Collins was quite handsome… but then he opened his mouth and I saw his fat tongue…”


Turns out that a ‘fat tongue’ is a thing.

And while it makes no difference to how you look, it makes a lot of difference to your quality of sleep.

However, if you have sleep apnoea – or you have a loved one with this disorder, then you might find this new study interesting.

Why your tongue could be causing you problems at night

As you’ll know, sleep apnoea is where your airways become blocked as you sleep. This leads to loud snoring, troubled breathing and even moments when you cannot breathe at all.

It’s estimated that three in ten people suffer from sleep apnoea and excessively loud snoring. So this is not something to be overlooked, or dismissed as a niggling health issue.

Over time this can lead to a massively increased risk of type-2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and heart attacks.

That’s a bad roll of health problems right there. But the news gets worse:

  • In April 2016, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) made a link between heavy snoring and memory loss, poor concentration and early signs of dementia. They found that people who treated their sleep breathing problems now could push back these symptoms by ten years.
  • According to a study in Australia in 2014, people with sleep apnoea are 340% more likely to die of cancer. This is because sleep apnoea deprives your body’s tissues of oxygen, a problem which can spur the growth of malignant tumours.

So aside from the issue of noisy snoring that terrifies the wits out of anyone sleeping in the room with you, there are many compelling reasons for you to deal with the problem.

One of the exacerbating factors, according to a team of researchers in Pennsylvania, is the amount of fat on your tongue, causing it to fall back and block your airways.

The study’s author, Dr Richard Schwab said, “The less fat there is, the less likely the tongue is to collapse during sleep.”

Larger, fattier tongues were more common among patients who were obese. When those patients lost weight, they reduced their amount of tongue fat, leading to 30% improvements in their breathing at night.

How to improve your breathing at night

So, an obvious solution is to try and lose some weight – you may already be doing this, as it’s January, the peak month for dieting.

However, I’d recommend avoiding crash or fad dieting, as this only loses weight in the short term and risks you putting even more weight on in the long term.

Instead, take it really slow and steady, focussing on healthy eating rather than weight loss.

Introduce a wide range of whole foods, including vegetables and fruit, cook your own meals and avoid sweets, crisps and too many white carbs.

Add a bit of walking or swimming and you should drop some weight, which will have an effect on your tongue.

Of course, you might not have something as serious as sleep apnoea, but even milder snoring is a problem you need to address.

It’s vital that you breathe properly when you’re asleep or you could suffer a whole host of health problems including:

  • Poor recovery from illness, including colds and flu
  • Inflammation of your sinuses, throat and tonsils
  • Low energy and bad moods
  • Poor memory
  • Headaches and neck pain
  • Sore joints and muscles
  • Bad digestion

On top of all this there’s the relationship problems that can come from a partner’s snoring. If you’re one of those people, I probably don’t need to tell you how stressful that is!

So however severe your night-time breathing difficulties, I’d recommend you also try these measures:

  • Use a natural salt inhaler to flush away impurities and reduce inflammation in your airways. Used daily it can help reduce snoring, wheeziness and shortage of breath – click here to find out more
  • Sleep on your side – make sure you get some decent pillows which support your head or try a special orthopaedic pillow
  • Give up smoking – that’s a given when it comes to snoring and other sleep issues
  • Avoid sleeping pills unless absolutely necessary

And if you have breathing difficulties of any kind that make you uncomfortable at night, you can also try this…

How to train your body to breathe better

Most of us don’t inflate our stomachs to breathe, which means we don’t allow the diaphragm muscle to expand and pump air through our lungs.

Instead we breathe through our chests. When we do this, we use the top of our lungs. This is known as ‘shallow breathing’. It causes muscular stress around our chest, upper back and shoulders, and also leads to difficulty breathing, especially at night.

To remedy it, you can retrain your breathing, by doing this 5-minute routine every day.

First, put your hands on your stomach at the belly button area. Now breathe and feel your stomach expand like a balloon.

When you breathe out, push the stomach gently back in with it.

Do this for a few minutes, then try this second version…

Put your hands above your hips and just below your bottom ribs.

Now breathe in and feel your lower ribs expand out. Then breathe out and feel the ribs come back in.

This is known as ‘wide breathing’. It uses your diaphragm to pump your lungs with air.

Doing this exercise every day will train your body to start breathing like this unconsciously, without you even thinking about it.

Give it a go and see how you get on!