Playing the oboe, the difficult instrument that Danny Kaye once described as “an ill wind that no one blows good,” may actually be good for you. That’s the tentative conclusion reached by Dr. Christopher P. Ward and six colleagues, who found that musicians who play double-reed woodwind instruments–oboes, bassoons and English horns–appear to have a significantly lower risk of obstructive sleep apnea than musicians who play other instruments, including other wind instruments.The study was presented at the annual Sleep meeting sponsored by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies held in June 2009 in Seattle, WA. It was the most recently reported of a number of studies, all of them small, that point toward possible exercise treatments for sleep apnea alternative to continuous positive airway pressure machines.
Ward and his coauthors, Kaki M. York, Kaylee K. Vance, Andrew S. Calzadilla, Frank J. Walch, Jennifer J. Song, and Masha Sharf, surveyed 901 musicians, 847 of whom were college musical instrument instructors across the United States, with the remaining 54 being members of orchestras in the Houston, TX, area. Their conclusions differed dramatically from a similar study conducted by Devin L. Brown of the University of Michigan Medical School and others that found wind musicians were no less prone to OSA than those who play other instruments. The Brown study of 1,111 musicians, “Risk of Sleep Apnea in Orchestra Members,” was e-published by Sleep Medicine in November 2008 and then appeared in the June 2009 print issue of the journal.