A study (#0715) being presented later this morning as a poster examines the risk of obstructive sleep apnea in 847 professional musicians.
Results show that musicians who played a high-resistance wind instrument had a significantly lower risk for OSA, while playing a high-resistance brass instrument such as the trumpet or horn produced no difference in OSA risk. Specifically, musicians who played double-reed woodwind instruments such as the oboe or the bassoon had the lowest risk for OSA, suggesting that these instruments promote “naturalistic” respiratory muscle training. Overall, 29.2 percent of musicians had a high risk for OSA. Risk also was related to the number of hours spent practicing per week.
In January the Sleep Education Blog reported on the theory that playing a wind instrument makes the muscles in the upper airway stronger, thus preventing soft tissue in the throat from collapsing and blocking the airway during sleep. The theory gained support from a small study in 2006 in the British Medical Journal. Results show that daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea severity improved in participants who played the didgeridoo.
Another study in the June issue of Sleep Medicine, however, found that wind players were more likely (odds ratio 1.47) than non-wind players to be at high risk for OSA; but this association was no longer statistically significant (adjusted odds ratio 1.12) after adjusting for age, body mass index, and gender. The researchers surveyed 1,111 orchestra members, including 369 wind instrument players.
You can download the SLEEP 2009 abstract supplement as an 11 MB file in PDF format.