The didgeridoo (also known as a didjeridu or didge) is a wind instrument developed by Indigenous Australians of northern Australia around 1,500 years ago and still in widespread usage today both in Australia and around the world. It is sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or "drone pipe". Musicologists classify it as a brass aerophone.
There are no reliable sources stating the didgeridoo's exact age. Archaeological studies of rock art in Northern Australia suggest that the people of the Kakadu region of the Northern Territory have been using the didgeridoo for less than 1,000 years, based on the dating of paintings on cave walls and shelters from this period. A clear rock painting in Ginga Wardelirrhmeng, on the northern edge of the Arnhem Land plateau, from the freshwater period shows a didgeridoo player and two songmen participating in an Ubarr Ceremony.
A modern didgeridoo is usually cylindrical or conical, and can measure anywhere from 1 to 3 m (3 to 10 ft) long. Most are around 1.2 m (4 ft) long. The length is directly related to the 1/2 sound wavelength of the keynote. Generally, the longer the instrument, the lower the pitch or key of the instrument.
Didgeridoo as Alternative Sleep Apnea Treatment
Just Keep Breathing
The didgeridoo is played with a special breathing technique called circular breathing. This involves breathing in through the nose while expelling air out of the mouth using the tongue and cheeks. Vibrating lips will produce a continuous drone that a skilled player can sustain for as long as desired, with the supply of air constantly replenished.
Strengthen Your Windpipe
In a Swiss study published in the British Medical Journal, it was found that didgeridoo playing is an effective alternative treatment for moderate obstructive sleep apnea. It was hypothesized that the circular breathing technique may improve muscular tone of the upper airway and reduce the collapsibility that is common in sleep apnea. Twenty-five patients were enrolled in the study, given lessons, and practiced daily at home for four months.
What Are the Outcomes?
The enrolled study subjects practiced approximately 25 minutes a day, 6 days per week. Compared with a control group, daytime sleepiness and the apnea-hyopnea index (or the number of airway collapses per hour) improved significantly. Their partners also reported less sleep disturbance. There was not a measurable effect on the quality of sleep, however.
An Effective Alternative?
This study demonstrates that regular didgeridoo playing may be an effective adjunctive treatment in people with moderate obstructive sleep apnea, improving some measures of the disease. It does seem that some residual mild sleep apnea still persists, however.