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The Didjeridu Linked to Sleep Apnoea and Snoring Cure.
Alex Murchison, Echo Tree.

The time has finally come for the didjeridu to become a more widely accepted instrument! The emergence of recent research, linking the didjeridu to sleep apnoea and snoring cures, has put this unique Australian icon on a sales footing "set to explode" as one recent Australian newspaper article put it.

"Snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea are two highly prevalent sleep disorders caused by collapse of the upper airways." (2) This results in the sufferer gasping for breath, snoring loudly, snorting and constantly waking up. Daytime sleepiness, an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure are all associated with the condition-as are the rising costs they create in the workforce! This disorder costs industry millions, makes our roads less safe and even affects the sufferer's partners with disrupted sleep.

"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." (3) Their findings were quite amazing: "Regular playing of the didgeridoo reduces daytime sleepiness and snoring in people with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and also improves the sleep quality of partners. Severity of disease, expressed by the apnoea-hypopnoea index, is also substantially reduced after four months of didgeridoo playing." (4)

"Deep beneath the tidal wave of consumerism is the true, grass roots of the didjeridu, a musical instrument that is versatile, functional, easy to learn and unique in ways unseen in other musical instruments across the world."

During the past decade the didjeridu has become a worldwide phenomenon as a tourist item. Any visitor to Australian shores cannot avoid them and there are almost an infinite number of different shapes, colours, types and sizes available. The trend has been catching on internationally too, but mainly in the tourism and souvenir sectors only. Now, with the emergence of this new research, the didjeridu is likely to be taken seriously by a whole new and much larger demographic, looking to benefit from the health giving properties it offers.

"The didjeridu represents the true spirit of Australia. If the earth had a voice, it would be the sound of the didjeridu."

Didjeridu playing has always been good for the health and this latest finding is just another hidden asset we have discovered about the instrument. Playing has long been known to possess ability to reduce stress levels and elevate the mood, giving a sense of wellbeing and vitality. Circular breathing is one of the key factors that achieve this. Vibration of the lips (a sensitive area for nerve endings), the audible effect of the soundwaves and also their physical effect, are further contributors to the instrument's ability to distress and revitalise the player. The energy boost and revitalization resulting from ten or twenty minutes of playing can be experienced by anyone and is especially noticeable when the player has been feeling lethargic or tired from little or too much activity. Some of the physiological effects include increased lung capacity and efficiency (up to double in some cases), oxygenation of the body and brain, and the elimination of excess toxin-carrying mucous.

The extra breathing and lung activity that occurs during playing because of circular breathing increases oxygen supply to the body and helps to expel mucus build up in the lungs (similar to the effect of exercise). Sharp breaths through the nostrils act to clear out the nasal cavities, thus eliminating excess toxin-carrying mucous. During the creation of rhythms, the player's diaphragm muscles are actively used and exercised. This has a similar effect on the internal organs, as do specific yoga exercises designed to enhance the assimilation of food and elimination of waste. Furthermore, active use of the diaphragm muscle aids in toning up the stomach externally. Asthmatics and smokers in particular are significantly benefited by the health-giving properties of circular breathing.

"There exists no other musical instrument which so closely relies on nature to create its unique sound characteristics."

The didjeridu is also very easy to learn to play, and the sense of achievement gained as one learns is another positive, healthy factor-a positive mental outlook and attitude has great power to keep the immune system active and therefore prevent illness.

Contrary to popular myths, the basics of playing a didjeridu are extremely easy to pick up. Within any area of learning, imagination, time, energy and money are usually the only limitations to a lifetime of learning, and with the didjeridu it only takes 3 half hour didj lessons* for the foundations of competence to be laid down.

Once the basics of didj playing have been learnt, (such as getting the drone note and learning to circular breathe), the musician is able to let their natural rhythm kick in and their imagination go. The incredible versatility of the didjeridu means it can be played with almost any style of music and can be varied to suit many different instruments within those styles.

Playing the didjeridu can be a great alternative to drugs, not only for sleep disorders, but also in the areas of respiration, vitality and mental attitude just to name a few.

*This information is based on a tuition program curriculum developed by 'Echo Tree' and is currently being used in Australian schools and private tuition with great success.

(1). Sydney Morning Herald,
(2). Milo A Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz, Otto Braendii. Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomized controlled trial.
(3). British Medical Journal.
(4). Milo A Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz, Otto Braendii. Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomized controlled trial.

Alex Murchison writes from Canberra, the capital of Australia, where he teaches didjeridu and runs a hand crafting business, creating fine quality, musical level didjeridus as a full time profession.

To find out more about sleep apnoea and to view the original research papers, articles etc, follow the links below.

To find out more about the didjeridu, its history, origins and science
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To find out more about the Echo Tree didgeridoo playing Tuition Program
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British Medical Journal press release

Sydney Morning Herald Article, December 23, 2005

Original Paper, PDF doc

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