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Study: Playing the Digeridoo and Sleep Apnea

If you have been seeking a working treatment for your obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) for a long time, it’s likely that you have come across some very strange solutions to your problem, from implants and patches to oral devices and pillows. However, none might be stranger than the claim that playing the digeridoo can lessen your OSA symptoms. However, although it is odd, digeridoo and sleep apnea clinical studies have show that the claim may hold water – and that picking up a new (but ancient) instrument could help you rest better at night.

What is a Digeridoo?

A digeridoo is a long, large wind instrument invented by the Aboriginal people of Northern Australian an estimated 1,500 years ago. These cylindrical musical instruments are between three and ten feet long and produce a low, unique droning sound.  The digeridoo is played using circular breathing, a technique that allows musicians to breathe in through their nose while breathing out through their mouth simultaneously, allowing them to play sustained notes for long periods of time. One digeridoo player, Mark Atkins, played a sustained note for 50 minutes.

Clinical Study: Digeridoo and Sleep Apnea

The first clinical study exploring the relationship between digeridoo and sleep apnea took place at the University of Zurich, where researchers split sleep apnea sufferers into two group: one control group and one group that was introduced to the digeridoo. The digeridoo players were given four lessons with a digeridoo instructor and asked to practice at least 20 minutes per day, five days per week, for four months.

The results were broken into the following five categories:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Sleep quality
  • Partner rating of sleep disturbance
  • The apnoea-hypopnoea index (AHI)
  • Their health-related quality of life

The study found that all five categories improved significantly for the group that played the digeridoo, especially the participant’s reported daytime sleepiness. In addition, the study found that participants enjoyed the therapy: on average, the participants played for almost six days a week instead of five and for an average of 25 minutes per day instead of 20. Finally, the study found that playing the digeridoo had no adverse affects on the patient an no unforeseen outcomes. In general, the study concludes that the digeridoo is an effective treatment for OSA.

Why Does The Digeridoo Help Manage Sleep Apnea?

While the exact reasons that digeridoo playing helps treat OSA aren’t known, scientists have a few good theories to explain why it is a good therapy for some people suffering from the condition.

  • It strengthens throat muscles. The digeridoo is a large wind instrument that requires strength in the lungs, throat, and mouth to play. Practicing multiple times a week strengthens these muscles, improving the overall airway.
  • It improves breathing. Playing the digeridoo requires circular breathing, in which the lungs remained filled as a person breaths in and out at the same time. This breathing technique strengthens the lungs and helps players breath easier at night.
  • It promotes meditation. Finally, playing an instrument regularly is a great exercise for mental health. Clearing your mind for 20 minutes each day to focus on music and relaxation can improve stress levels, lower depression, and perhaps help you rest better at night.

Are You A Good Candidate for Digeridoo Therapy?

It is important to note that not all patients will benefit equally from picking up the digeridoo. Patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea may find that the digeridoo helps their OSA but does not eliminate it. Others may find that playing a digeridoo doesn’t fit well into their lifestyle. At Surgical Sleep Solutions, we understand that different OSA patients need different OSA treatment approaches. Contact us today at 855-560-7378 or set up a consultation below to find out what the best treatment plan may be for you.

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