Maybe you shouldn’t have dropped out of band class in junior high or high school. There has been some recent interest in using wind instruments as a possible treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
The theory is that playing a wind instrument makes the muscles in the upper airway stronger. This could prevent soft tissue in the throat from collapsing and blocking the airway during sleep.
The idea gained support from a small study in 2006 in the British Medical Journal. Fourteen participants with sleep apnea learned how to play an acrylic plastic didgeridoo. They were given lessons and practiced at home for four months. They practiced for an average of about 25 minutes, 5.9 days per week.
Eleven people with sleep apnea were kept on a waiting list as a control. Results show that daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea severity improved in those who played the didgeridoo.
In a recent study researchers put this wind-instrument theory to the test. They surveyed professional orchestra members. Their risk of sleep apnea was assessed using the Berlin questionnaire.
A total of 1,111 orchestra members responded. About 31 percent (348) had a high risk of sleep apnea.
And those who play a wind instrument? Did they have a lower risk of sleep apnea?
Actually, they were more likely than non-wind players to be at high risk for sleep apnea. But this was not statistically significant when adjusted for age, body mass index and gender.
So wind instruments may not be the answer for sleep apnea. But each instrument requires a different rate of airflow and air pressure. Future research could find that specific instruments have more treatment potential than others.
But there’s no need to go to an orchestra hall to find a treatment for sleep apnea. A sleep specialist at an AASM-accredited sleep center can determine which treatment option is best for you. Effective treatments include CPAP and oral appliances.