For three in 10 adults, their throat relaxes during sleep and tissues start vibrating when they inhale and exhale. The result: an often-harsh sound we all know as snoring. When the throat relaxes, it can vibrate and obstruct the airway. The more it constricts, the greater the force of the air and the louder the snore.
The causes are many. Sometimes it’s biological, such as an overly large set of tonsils. Obesity is known to cause snoring. Indulging in alcohol can relax throat muscles. Sinus congestion can cause snoring. If you’ve injured your nose in the past, it may be slightly crooked inside and disrupt air flow. Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, where sagging throat tissues threaten to collapse the airway.
An instrument out of Australia may be able to help people who snore — and those who sleep next to them. The didgeridoo is an aboriginal instrument that is 1,500 years old. Over three feet long, perhaps it’s a distant cousin of the flute and other wind instruments. In truth, it looks like a wooden trumpet, or a pipe that produces music. It is made from a tree that has been hollowed out by termites.
The idea is that by blowing into it, playing it, you can strengthen the lungs and prevent snoring. You play the didgeridoo with vibrating lips that are needed to make the deep, droning sound that emanates from the instrument. More importantly: players inhale and exhale in a special way known as “circular breathing.” Using this method allows players to hold a single note for as long as a song requires. Basically, you exhale into the instrument slowly and, when your lungs are just about empty, you use your cheeks as storage for the last bit of air. While the air in the cheeks is used, you must also fill the lungs back up by inhaling through the nose. This happens before you run out of the air stored in the cheeks. In this way, one can play the didgeridoo for a long time without being out of breath.
While it takes a long time to master, anyone can learn and experiment with the didgeridoo. Just by practicing it, a snorer can stop their tissues from relaxing at night. Researchers proved this idea in the “British Medical Journal” by studying 25 people who either snored or had
Half of the participants received lessons every day on how to play the didgeridoo. They found that people who played the Australian instrument for four months had significant improvement in their apnea and daytime sleepiness. Meanwhile, their sleeping partners them reported far fewer disturbances from snoring.
The reason the didgeridoo was successful? Researchers speculate that by using the circular breathing technique and playing the instrument, snorers can train their upper airways in a way that alleviates snoring and breathing difficulties.