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Singing Can Soothe Sleep Apnea

Dear Dr. Roach: I appreciate your columns. Recently, in a column about sleep apnea, you did not mention one thing that I have heard of that will help. I was told this by a dentist who makes mouth appliances for apnea patients: singing. I haven’t tried it; I don’t know why. Strangely, I used to be a singer. But I let it slide some years ago. I am now 82.

Is there a statistic on that? I’m going to start singing when I’m alone and see if it helps. I hate that machine. I’ll let you know if I live long enough to find out anything. It should be fun, anyway. — J.S.B.

Answer: I will admit to skepticism when I read your letter. However, part of being a scientist is to evaluate a hypothesis by examining the evidence in an unbiased fashion. In this case, to my surprise, the evidence is good that singing can help improve obstructive sleep apnea. A study in 2013 from the U.K. showed that a three-month program of daily singing exercises caused a reduction in snoring and improvement in symptoms of mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. I am sure that any kind of singing exercises may help, but the actual program used in the study is available for sale at singingforsnorers.com.

Dear Dr. Roach: I am an almost 86-year-old male with a problem that has baffled doctors for the past six years. From time to time, anywhere from one to two times a day and skipping anywhere from one to 10 days apart, I get a feeling in my head as if I’m going to get dizzy (but I don’t), and it lasts for about eight seconds, at which time (as my wife describes) I have a funny expression on my face and a quivering lower lip. This occurs only when I am relaxing and never when I am lying down. When it is over, I feel wiped out for a short time. I have been to a neurologist as well as a cardiologist and have had numerous tests, including an EKG, an EEG and an MRI, and have gotten a clean bill of health. — A.B.

Answer: You might not ever get a diagnosis. Your symptoms don’t fit perfectly into any clear category, and I think your doctors were right to take a look both at your heart and your brain. However, the quivering of the lower lip and the funny expression do raise my suspicion for a type of epilepsy.