The Sleep Apnea Didgeridoo


by Patricia Salber

So, following up on my plan to take up the didgeridoo as one approach to decreasing my sleep apnea symptoms, I went to Google.  First, I found an instructor in nearby San Francisco, Alan Tower, whose website suggests he could be the guy for me.  I dutifully filled out the form to get him to call me …but I am still waiting. He is an artist, so I fully expect this could take a while.  Good news though, he offers some online lessons, so maybe I will start with those while I am waiting for him to get back with me.

So back to the web to see what I have to do to get myself a didgeridoo to play.  I discovered there are actually lots of sites selling didges (I got the lingo now).  One of them, The Didgeridoo Store, being entrepreneurial, even had a didgeridoo they label, “The Sleep Apnea Didgeridoo.”

If you click on this didge you link to a page dedicated to explaining the benefits of playing the didgeridoo on snoring and sleep apnea.  It starts with a reference to the British Medical Journal article discussed in my last post.  Then they describe the “Modern Didgeridoo Package – Blue Lagoon Design – for snorers and apneics:

Modern Didgeridoo Package – Blue Lagoon Design
All the same traits as our Ultimate Didgeridoo at the top of this page. This package just has a different design. A great beginner package that includes our blue lagoon didgeridoo, cloth bag, instruction booklet, and comprehensive mini CD. The mini CD has text, audio, and video lessons for your PC computer. With it you can learn quickly and start having fun right away! It also teaches circular breathing through a video series in easy gradual stages.
Brand new instrument – ready to play out of the box. Shipping is $13 – $16 (depending on your state) within the continental U.S. for 4-7 day Ground delivery. We also offer Post Office delivery. Faster delivery is available if you need it in a hurry!
If you have any questions about this didgeridoo or would like to hear it played for you over the phone please call us toll free (866) 468-3434 or local (559) 642-6434.


The Blue Lagoon didge is really quite beautiful and I can see hanging it in my office somewhere if the didge-playing thing doesn’t work out.

A bit of history about the didgeridoo: It is a Australian Aborigine instrument whose use dates back at least 1500 years.  According to Wikipedia, traditionally, only men play the didgeridoo during ceremonies, but women could play in informal situations (that’s good).

Original Aboriginal didges are made from Eucalyptus that has been naturally hollowed out by termites!  It takes about a year for termites to do the hollowing.  Since the quality of the sound is affected by the wall thickness of the instrument, didge-makers have to find just the right tree or branch to harvest.  The length of the instrument determines the pitch, with shorter lengths yielding higher pitches.   Didges range from a high “G” to a low “A”, but most commonly they are in the keys of C or D.  Since I have been told I am tone deaf, it probably doesn’t really matter which didge I get – I will probably not produce pretty sounds, but, heck, I want it for the therapeutic benefit to my oral cavity anyway.

The therapeutic benefit is said to be related to the circular breathing technique used to create didge music.  Here is how it is described on Wikipedia:

“…a player breathes in through the nose at the same time as pushing stored air out of the mouth using the tongue and cheeks. A skilled player can refill the air in their lungs, and with practice can keep a note playing for as long as desired.”

Evidently, there there are recordings of modern didgeridoo players playing wihout stopping for more than 40 minutes; Mark Atkins on Didgeridoo Concerto (1994) plays for over 50 minutes continuously.  Wow!  Watch him play Alan Dargins Hitchhiker:

You have to make a beeswax mouthpiece to fit on the orad-end of the instrument.  The Didgeridoo store provides both written instructions and a DVD to show you how to do this.

Okay, then, looks like I am ready to go.  I just need the didge, the instructions, and a whopping spoonful of discipline.

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Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the founder and host of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.


  1. I’m curious if you have an update on you digeridoo playing/training and if it has impacted your sleep apnea. I have found CPAP (actually C-Flex) treats my OSA well without the discomfort problems that some report…. however I’ve been reading about this digeridoo and thought it sounded like fun,!?!? with some health benefits?!?! Thanks.

  2. Hi Patricia,

    I wrote a comment about your last post on didges and just (belatedly) saw this one so I thought I’d comment again with a little more info and my own experience, so far (I’m the guy who had the MMA surgery that didn’t work):

    It turns out that LA Outback, which appears to be a competitor to the Didgeridoo Store that you listed, also has a lot of info on the didge and sleep apnea, including links to the University of Zurich study, a link to a YouTube about a group in Oregon that meets to play the didge for sleep apnea, and links to YouTubes by the guy behind the study, Alex Suarez. And it turns out that Alex started a company, Asate, that sells didgeridoos and instructions on how to play in the way that was used in the study.

    I got in contact, bought one of his travel didges (very convenient, three sections that screw together so it’s small enough when disassembled to put in your carryon) and also signed up for the lessons–but the package of the didge and the lessons is expensive, over $500, and I’m still not sure if it’s having any effect (but it’s only been a few weeks and the Zurich study was for four months). I think the big news is that, unlike many stories written about the Zurich study, Alex makes very clear that circular breathing is not the key component, and in fact is not necessary to get results.

    I’d be very curious to know if anyone else in the SF Bay Area is playing the didge and whether there is a group or groups like the one in Oregon.