July 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

To Your Health

Dr. Keith Roach: Sing your way to sleep apnea improvement

Dear Dr. Roach: 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 havenít tried it; I donít 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? Iím going to start singing when Iím alone and see if it helps. I hate that machine. Iíll let you know if I live long enough to find out an≠ything. It should be fun, anyway.

J.S.B.

Dear J.S.B.: 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 Iím going to get dizzy (but I donít), 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.

Dear A.B.: You might not ever get a diagnosis. I realize that is frustrating, but thereís still a lot we doctors canít figure out. Your symptoms donít 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. Sometimes, on a single EEG, it doesnít show up, and the neurologist may want to do additional leads (to look for epilepsy in the temporal lobe) if they werenít already done, or to have the EEG done for a more prolonged period. Sometimes 24 or 48 hours is necessary to capture one of these episodes.

Be sure to bring your wife to the neurologist, as she can describe what she sees, which may be of great importance.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.