A large tongue is a well-established risk factor for sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that causes hypertension and increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other problems. How can you tell if your tongue size is larger than normal? With your mouth wide open, stick your tongue out all the way while looking in a mirror. If you can't see your entire uvula, the soft projection that hangs down from your soft palate, your tongue is bulky (see illustrations).
Large, fat tongue
Help for large tongues
If you have a large tongue and it's contributing to sleep apnea, special exercises may help, according to a study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. It showed that three months of tongue exercises, 30 minutes a day, significantly reduced symptoms in people with moderate sleep apnea. Some of the exercises are shown online. Others are described here.
Other research has suggested that playing a "high-resistance" wind instrument such as an oboe can also strengthen key muscles in the mouth and throat and thus help treat sleep apnea—or reduce the risk of developing it in the first place.