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Sleep Apnea? Break out your didgeridoo

Those who play and enjoy the didgeridoo know that creating the low, keening sounds on the instrument can relax and inspire you. The instrument, made from hollowed out wood or PVC pipe, is played using breathing techniques that improve as the user gets better through practice. What an avid player of the didgeridoo might not expect is that the instrument and the breathing techniques could help you get a better nights rest and solve the rising problem of sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is an issue for over 18 million people worldwide, although the condition often goes undiagnosed and the number of people suffering from this problem could be as high as 30,000 million. Occurring when the soft palate collapses and the airway is blocked, the individual with apnea stops breathing. Other signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring while sleeping and daytime sleepiness due to an inability to get adequate rest at night. It is a problem that often plagues those who are overweight or the aging population, but it is not known why some have sleep apnea and others do not.

To diagnose this condition, the individual must have a referral from a doctor for a night in a sleep lab. The sleep lab measures the times that breathing has stopped and rates it on a scale from mild to severe. Once the condition is officially diagnosed, there are few ways to treat this problem. The solution generally chosen is a sleep mask. The mask is connected to an air pump, which sends air through the patients nose and keeps air flowing all night. The result is fewer episodes where the individual stops breathing. The mask is bulky and similar to wearing a scuba mask, which results in patients tossing it aside due to how constricting it feels when on. Unfortunately for those who suffer from sleep apnea, the problem does not go away on it’s own. The patient is expected to wear the mask for the rest of their lives, as this has been the most modern and safe way to fix the issue.

A recent British study has focused on a new and non-invasive way of assisting those with sleep apnea, and the surprising alternative has been found to be the didgeridoo. The technique of circular breathing used by those who play the didgeridoo was put to the test by patients with sleep apnea.

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The theory was that the breathing techniques strengthen the upper airway that collapses when apnea occurs. The result? Those who played for six days a week and 30 minutes per day reduced the amount of times they stopped breathing at night by a significant number. It was also found that their daytime drowsiness decreased.

If you are one of the millions that suffer from sleep apnea, grab yourself a didgeridoo and put it to the test. The instrument that you will come to love to play may just help you get a better nights rest.

29th Oct 2014

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