Snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome are common sleep disorders caused by the collapse of the upper airways. Continuous positive airway pressure therapy is effective, but is not suitable for many patients.
Reports of didgeridoo players experiencing reduced daytime sleepiness and snoring after practising, led experts in Switzerland to test the theory that training of the upper airways by didgeridoo playing can improve these disorders.
They identified 25 patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and who complained about snoring. Patients were randomly allocated to an intervention group (didgeridoo lessons and daily practice at home for four months) or a control group (remained on a waiting list for lessons).
Compared with the control group, daytime sleepiness and apnoea scores improved significantly in the didgeridoo group. Partners of patients in the didgeridoo group also reported much less sleep disturbance.
Although overall quality of sleep did not differ significantly between groups, a combined analysis of sleep related measures showed a moderate to large effect of didgeridoo playing.
The authors conclude that regular training of the upper airways by didgeridoo playing reduces daytime sleepiness and snoring in people with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and also improves the sleep quality of partners.
"Larger trials are needed to confirm our preliminary findings, but our results may give hope to the many people with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and snoring, as well as to their partners," they say.
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