How the Didgeridoo can be Used to Treat Sleep Apnea

Numerous medical organizations are recommending that playing the didgeridoo (also didjeridoo, didjeridu, didg, didj) can help people with obstructive sleep apnea, a common disorder that can have serious health implications, and also some cases of snoring that have a throat component. Playing the didgeridoo strengthens and tones the tissues of the throat, and can also provide good exercise for the respiratory system, as well as a meditation aid. We are NOT physicians and recommend that patients consult their professional healthcare providers and to follow their recommendations.

From the USA National Institutes of Health (NIH):

“One of the challenges in the treatment of sleep disorders is poor compliance. Thus new treatments not only need to be effective but also be ones that people are motivated enough to use. Didgeridoo playing seems to meet these requirements. Participants were highly motivated during the trial and practiced, on average, almost six days a week, which was even more than the protocol asked for. Regular playing of a didgeridoo reduces sleep apnea and snoring in people with moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and also improves the sleep quality of partners. Severity of disease, expressed by the apnea-hypopnoea index, is also substantially reduced after four months of didgeridoo playing.”

The Mayo Clinic also recommends this in a recent book titled “The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies” (2010).

Dr. Oz, of TV fame, recommends the didgeridoo for sleep apnea “to exercise the muscles in the back of the throat that cause snoring while you sleep. Those muscles get lax while you sleep so, by exercising them with with the didgeridoo, essentially a branch hollowed out by termites that turns into an instrument, you strengthen the muscles so they don’t collapse while you sleep.”

According to Rubin Naiman, PhD, an internationally recognized leader in integrative sleep and dream medicine and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Arizona: “Learning to play the didgeridoo is emerging as a surprisingly effective and practical strategy for managing snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. I encourage all my patients with these concerns to discuss this option with their doctors.”

Read “Didgeridoo playing as Alternative Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome: Randomised Controlled Trial” at the British Medical Journal. This article presents the results of a 2005 Swiss medical study testing the efficacy of using didgeridoo to treat sleep apnea.

It’s often recommend practicing 20-30 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week. I usually tell beginning students to play a few minutes at a time, a few times a day. This lets them get used to the instrument without tiring or stressing the lips. Keep your didgeridoo nearby, somewhere you’ll see it; remember, out of sight, out of mind! Then, when they have built a little lip strength and endurance, they can increase the amount of time spent playing.

Playing the didgeridoo is fun, sounds great, and is easy for most people to learn! These qualities make it easy to stick with a program.

We have been contacted by sleep clinics and patients, and didge stores have increased sales and promotions. However, most health professionals dealing with sleep apnea and most suffers still do not know any didgeridoo teachers or didgeridoo suppliers. It is our goal to change this. There are opportunities available for didgeridoo players who want to teach!

If you are a didgeridoo player and wish to join our network as a teacher, please click here.


Quotes and Endorsements

“A scientific study published in the British Medical Journal in February 2006 tested didgeridoo playing to see if it could improve obstructive sleep apnea.  The results were quite positive, with the conclusion being regular didgeridoo playing is an effective treatment alternative well accepted by patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.
 
Steve Sklar has been teaching didgeridoo for many years. We have referred interested patients to him, and those that have attended classes have seen an improvement in the apnea. He is a dedicated professional and is working hard to improve the lives of those with sleep apnea, as well as spreading the word that there are alternative treatments to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and that the “treatment” can be fun!”

Mary McKinley, R. EEG T., RPSGT, RST
Director
Northwind Lung Specialists and Sleep Center
3758 Coon Rapids Boulevard
Coon Rapids, MN 55433

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“Steve Sklar is an excellent teacher of the didgeridoo. As someone with no musical talent or skills, who has taken up the didgeridoo to help combat sleep apnea, I have greatly appreciated Steve’s attentive, patient, supportive and structured approach. You could not put yourself in better hands. I highly recommend Steve.” — John Du Cane, CEO, Dragon Door Publications

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“Steve is an artist at his musical workmanship and at teaching his gift of playing and singing. I study the didg with him. He is very patient and creative with those of us who don’t have as much natural aptitude as musicians in this area! In the meantime, he helps me feel successful and like ‘I can do this!’. He’s a gift to all of us. We’re fortunate to have his skill and his wonderful ability to share it, right in our own back yard. Many thanks!” – Becky Gorman

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“Steve is an attentive teacher who can break it down and get you playing the didg. I have moderate sleep apnea and I find playing the didg at home for just a half hour several times a week gets me sleeping deeper and longer.” – Michael Gardos Reid, Minneapolis