Learning To Play A Wind Instrument Could Lower Your Risk For Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Wind Instruments
Playing a wind instrument can diminish your risk for sleep apnea. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

If your snoring is ruining sleep for you and your partner, consider picking up an instrument — preferably a brass or woodwind instrument. A recent study presented at the Sleep and Breathing Conference 2015 has found that playing a wind instrument, such as a flute or saxophone, can diminish a person’s risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea currently affects more than 18 million American adults. Risk factors associated with sleep apnea include a small upper airway, recessed chin, small jaw, large overbite, large neck size, smoking, alcohol use, age, ethnicity, and being obese or overweight. Men also stand a higher risk for developing sleep apnea compared to women.

"The findings of our small study present an interesting theory on preventative measures or treatment in sleep apnoea,” Silas Daniel Raj, author of the study, said in a statement. “If the findings are confirmed in larger groups, wind instrument playing could become a cheap and non-invasive method of preventing sleep apnoea in those at risk of developing the condition."

Raj and his colleagues recruited 64 people from India who played a wind instrument and a control group of 65 Indian people who did not play a wind instrument. Researchers tested each participant’s lung function before asking them to complete the Berlin questionnaire, the popular method for assessing a person’s risk for sleep apnea.

Although the research team discovered no difference between the two groups in their lung function tests, questionnaires revealed that the group who played wind instruments had a lower risk for developing sleep apnea. Researchers concluded that people who play wind instruments have lower risk for sleep apnea due to increased muscle tone in the upper airways.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea is the result of airway blockage where the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. If left untreated, sleep can result in serious and life-threatening consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, automobile accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, diabetes, and depression.

Source: Devaki P, Marthandam L, Saikumar P, Subramanian R, Raj S. Estimation of lung functions and assessment of risk of developing Obstructive sleep apnoea in wind instrument players. Sleep and Breathing Conference. 2015.

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