Is Your Tongue the Key to Better Sleep?

Woman stick ones tongue out isolated in white

If you’re struggling with poor sleep, it could be a result of sleep apnea. And a fat tongue might be contributing to your condition.

That’s right, a fat tongue. Didn’t realize you could have a fat tongue? I hear you. Most people don’t think fat gets in anywhere and everywhere. But it does. Fat can accumulate in most of your organs and tissue, including your tongue. Think of a marbled steak—fat inside meat.


Weight loss is one of the most commonly recommended forms of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that affects an estimated 25 million Americans.

OSA is a sleep disorder where muscles in the throat cannot keep airways open during sleep. It leads to interruptions in breathing and micro-awakenings that contribute to poor sleep and daytime fatigue and grogginess. Sleep apnea is also closely related to stroke risk and other cardiovascular concerns. Obesity is very closely related to sleep apnea risk.

A new study looked at how exactly weight loss contributed to sleep apnea symptoms. More specifically, it found that reductions in tongue fat might have the biggest role to play. This might shed some light on why fat loss works in helping treat sleep apnea.

Published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers found that weight loss made major reductions in sleep apnea symptoms, but losing fat in the tongue, specifically, was very closely related to improved symptoms.


A slimmer tongue, they noted, was responsible for 30-percent of the benefit of patients’ weight loss. The ones who lost more fat in the tongue had far better results.

Here is where things can get interesting: you can’t spot-train fat. Talking more, chewing gum, or doing tongue exercises won’t melt fat away from your tongue. The only way to lose fat, no matter where you want to lose it, is to adopt an overall fat loss program. Only your body can decide where and when the fat comes off.

Adopting a fat loss routine that involves a more healthful diet, increased activity, and a caloric deficit can reduce tongue fat and help open up your airways to combat OSA.

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.