How I Tried (And Failed) To Stop Snoring With A Didgeridoo
Snoring was funny in old cartoons. You breathe in with a growl, then exhale a pleasant "MEMEMememe" that makes the fuzzy ball at the end of the sleeping cap flutter. It seems harmless. But then again, Daffy Duck regularly took shotgun blasts to the face, and the worst that ever happened to him was looking like Geena Davis in Beetlejuice.
Maybe cartoons aren't the best metric. In real life, snoring can be a cause of major health issues. It made the transition from silly to serious once we became aware of its more dangerous form: sleep apnea.
I have sleep apnea. Maybe. I have no idea. I've never been tested. I just know that when I sleep, I produce a chain of grotesque sounds that match every description of the disorder -- like brutal snorts that are followed by unsettling moments of calm that make it seem like I've died. My girlfriend compares it to a mutant hog-person's death rattle. Strangely, that was not a compliment.
Her nights are sleepless and stressful; mine are fraught with the anxiety that the thing I absolutely have to do every day (otherwise, I'd go crazy and die) hurts someone I love. Something had to be done about it. My relationship is of utmost importance to me. I will face every issue that dares derail it head-on, including snoring. It's is no longer a laughing matter. For me, snoring has become serious.
So that's why I bought a didgeridoo.
My research into how to cure snoring totaled six minutes. At that six-minute mark, I read that people who play the didgeridoo snore less than those who don't. That's all I needed to hear. So I bought a didgeridoo on Amazon.
But before all that, I had flirted with a couple of non-didgeridoo anti-snoring devices. First, there were these horseshoe nose clip thingies:
The association between seashells and snoring is as strong as the one between seashells and wiping your ass.
They're rubber clips that are to be placed on the septum (that little bit of cartilage between your nostrils) before bed. This was somehow supposed to cure snoring. I will not tell you if they accomplished that goal. Instead, here are scans of the packaging they came in, which were poorly translated to English from Chinese. You tell me if this kind of attention to detail translates to a quality product:
I've also tried this ... thing:
It's supposed to push my lower jaw up so that my mouth isn't open enough to snore. It didn't work, and I ended up looking like that old pro wrestler, Vader.
Every night, for months, I fell asleep with a large spider gently hugging my face. Wearing it gave me a racist old man's angry grimace. It gave me an underbite. Not even meth can guarantee to give you the protruding jaw of an inbred yokel. This thing can. It is pleased with itself for it. It is the Devil.
After the failures of both atrocious devices, I had hit rock-bottom when it came to trying to solve a health issue without spending money on a doctor visit (a proud American tradition, I might add). And then, with but one published study as evidence of it's viability as an anti-snoring device, the didgeridoo entered my life.
Why not? What's the worst that could happen?
Learning To Play The Didgeridoo
The didgeridoo is not a complicated instrument, but there's a trick to it. Just blowing in air doesn't do anything. In order to produce anything even remotely like the didgeridoo's gravely growl, I had to blow a long, sustained mouth fart. I am very good at mouth farts. If I could, I'd have a permanent residency in a top Vegas hotel, performing mouth fart shows twice a night (three times on Saturday). I'd be farting with my mouth for millions of tourists a year alongside Cirque du Soleil and Penn and Teller. The didgeridoo is the musical instrument I was destined to play.
It took about two days of practice to nail the basics. Within a week, I was imagining myself performing the didgeridoo in stadiums, blessing all lands that the sounds of my didgeridoo may grace, bringing love to all who hear it. Behold, the threatening growl of peace:
Never before has an instrument been so thoroughly dominated so quickly.
But Then I Had To Do It Every Day Of My Life
Learning to play the didgeridoo was fun for the first week. Every morning, I'd wake up giddy from the thought that as a semi-permanent fixture of my routine for the foreseeable future, I was going to make bad music with a thing that is nothing more than a pretty-looking PVC pipe. I felt like a billionaire who could afford the free time to explore his spirituality and his dealer's selection of peyote.
I'd combine the playing of it with other parts of my morning routine for maximum efficiency. Shitting and pissing while didging was a surprisingly smooth and rewarding experience. Groggily staring out into my backyard in my underwear while didging put me in touch with my primal side, making for a savage, invigorating start to my days. Scaring the shit out of my dog with a screaming stick at 8 a.m. was better than coffee.
A friend, inspired by my valiant attempt to rid myself of snoring with a joke of a musical instrument, bought a didgeridoo for himself. At gatherings, we would transform into a Didgeri-Duo. We transformed my humble apartment into the nation's hottest club for watching live performances of two dudes who cannot play the didgeridoo well.
That first week was magical.
A week later, I no longer wanted to hear the freaky howl of a didgeridoo at 8 a.m., let alone be the one making the sound. The vibrations would leave my face shaking for hours. Self-consciousness crept in by week three. I began to wonder if my neighbors could hear it. Would they know it was a didgeridoo, or would they think I can't function in the morning unless I belt-sand something?
By week four, I was dreading the thought of even waking up. I knew that if I regained consciousness, I would have to make farts into a stick, and that was no longer appealing. Five-year-old me would kick me in the nards for saying that.
I had to keep going. I needed to get rid of my snoring. I couldn't give up until I saw some results -- and there actually were some. I took extensive notes for every week of the experiment; long, winding paragraphs of scattered thought. The following represents the entirety of my notes taken during the pivotal fourth week:
My uvula is a wrecking ball.
That week, for the first time since we had moved in, my girlfriend reported no snoring. I was astonished. Maybe this bullshit pursuit had a ring of truth to it? Could that be? But ... but it's just so dumb. The didgeridoo is one of the more inherently funny instruments. The name is funny. It makes a funny sound. The fact that it's just a big stick doesn't help. This thing is a glorified cardboard paper towel tube. How can blowing into it show any positive sign at all, in any way, of anything other than that I do not spend my money wisely?
I didn't get it. I didn't want to. I just kept playing every day, hoping the results would last. The experiment I never thought would actually work was working.
And then I ruined everything after doing a little bit of research that I should have done waaaay back at the beginning of this quest.
How I Fucked Shit Up
Eight weeks. Eight!
That's how deep I got into this experiment before it occurred to me that I had no idea how or why playing the didgeridoo could cure snoring. I was satisfied simply knowing that according to research, it did, and that it was working for me. The diabolical hog-man I transformed into at night had been kept at bay by the howls of the didgeridoo. Things were going well. So why would I need to look into the whys and hows of it? Just shut up and accept it.
But I researched it anyway. There's a running theme here of me rebelling against myself.
My re-research confirmed that through the regular playing of a didgeridoo, subjects saw a decrease in their snoring. That fact remained. Here's what I should have read eight weeks earlier: The test subjects were all taught a technique called circular breathing.
Here's how most of us would play a wind instrument: Take deep breath in, and then exhale into the instrument to produce a sound. Repeat until you win a Grammy for Jazz Album of the Year, which they'll present to you at a banquet a week before the actual Grammys. But then there's circular breathing, which is the wind instrument version of a Kung-Fu master's secret technique for exploding a person's head with a nose boop. Exhaling and inhaling is happening simultaneously. By drawing from air stored in the cheeks, a practiced musician can (in theory) play for an eternity without stopping to take a breath. Kenny G tried to do exactly that in 1997, when he set the world's record for playing the longest continuous note. I'm so sorry, but this is the best video I could find:
He held an E-flat 45 minutes and 47 seconds -- all thanks to circular breathing.
It also has a second benefit: It can strengthen a person's throat, thus preventing the inner-throaty chunks from falling on top of each other when a person lays down to sleep, which creates a moist pile of throat meat which obstructs the passage of air, resulting in a snore.
For several weeks prior to unearthing this new information, I saw no results. If I had discovered it then, I wouldn't have cared as much. But for one glorious week and a half, I experienced a profound placebo effect. Or maybe dumb luck was the cause of my long stretch of snoreless nights. Whatever it was, it ended soon after I discovered that I should have been circular breathing this whole time.
But I can't mope around feeling sorry for myself for having wasted two months of my life on a failed experiment. I have weak throat meat. I have to pivot and learn to circular breathe with my didgeridoo. And who better to learn from than the master himself, Kenny G.
Circular Breathing Is A No-Good, Piece-Of-Shit Thing, And I Don't Like It One Bit
It turns out that Kenny G is kind of a dick. Or at least, he is in this circular breathing instructional guide. He's only joking, though. I think. What if he isn't? What if the man who wrote the soundtrack to every boring moment you've ever had is an arrogant piece of shit? What if he calls himself "The G"? What if when he sees an up-and-coming clarinetist rehearsing, he says, "Nice work!" and then, when their minds are ripped apart by a compliment from Kenny "Fucking" G, he breaks their fingers? Man. What a world that would be.
He'll burn down your fucking house and kill your dog.
Circular breathing is hard. Doing it is shoving a Rubik's Cube into your sinuses and intending to sneeze it out solved. It feels like your oxygen has suddenly been replaced with a milkshake. That is the exact scenario my face depicts. I have that "Local Idiot Tries To Breathe Milkshake Again" look about me.
Five weeks of regular practice didn't demystify the technique in the least. I am convinced that it's impossible. Either it's sorcery, or everyone's a liar and the shit isn't even real. And here I am trying to inhale and exhale at the same time like a goofy prick. Meanwhile, somewhere in Hell, Kenny G laughs at me from atop his throne of blood and clarinets, and then plays "Going Home" with Hitler's spine.
Circular breathing sucks, my relationship is fucked, and Kenny G is mocking me on YouTube, talking about how "it'll take you 20 years to learn!" Fuck you. I don't have that kind of time, Ken. Sometimes I have to sleep on the goddamn couch, Ken. I DON'T LIKE SLEEPING ON THE GODDAMN COUCH, KEN.
Guys, I don't think this one has a happy ending. It hurts to admit, but I'm iffy on the viability of the didgeridoo as an anti-snoring device. This is kind of blindsiding me. I'm out of options. I mean, I have the name and number of a sleep specialist, but they're no didgeridoo. No number of medical degrees could convince me of it.
But I guess I can give the doc a ring. Couldn't hurt. Can't wait to see what kind of cockamamie treatments a medical doctor has to offer that a didgeridoo can't.
You'll want to cure snoring, especially in your children. Science shows that children who snore end up becoming jerks, as seen in 6 Tiny Things That Indicate You've Got Huge Medical Problems and 6 Insane Things Science Can Predict About You At Infancy.
Also follow us on Facebook, because you'll need something to do while your partner keeps you up with their snoring.