Daily Archives: May 31, 2013

Can playing the didgeridoo help treat sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of very low breathing during sleep. Even if a person gets enough sleep, sleep apnea can negatively effect the quality of sleep. A person with this condition will very often feel unrefreshed upon waking in the morning.

Sleep apnea is more common in overweight people, but anyone can have this condition. There are many ways to treat it, but among the more unconventional is the didgeridoo. The didgeridoo is a wind instrument from Australia, invented by the aboriginal Australians over a thousand years ago. You will often hear the didgeridoo playing in movies or documentaries that feature the Australian outback.

According to the British Medical Journal(2006) in Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomised controlled trial:


Regular didgeridoo playing is an effective treatment alternative well accepted by patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.

Fascinating how this ancient flute-like instrument may help sleep apnea patients. It seems that to play the didgeridoo requires blowing into the instrument in a manner that is different from blowing into other wind instruments, and this may strengthen the muscles used for breathing. However, the evidence is preliminary and this kind of study has inherent flaws, the most obvious being “what kind of control group do we use?”. A control group of flute-players? A control group of people playing defective didgeridoos?

Another thing I would like to know is if a person with sleep apnea is already doing vigorous exercise on a regular basis, does the didgeridoo provide additional benefits on top of the respiratory benefits from exercise? After all, exercise shows some efficacy for treating sleep apnea as well, according to Sleep. 2011 Dec 1, The effect of exercise training on obstructive sleep apnea and sleep quality: a randomized controlled trial.

Still, even if playing the didgeridoo doesn’t help with sleep apnea, learning to play a new instrument can be a very rewarding experience. If you are planning a trip to Australia, you may even impress the natives.