It should go without saying that good sleep is an absolute NECESSITY for good vocal health, but in a society that increasingly values quantity over quality it should come as no surprise that sleep doesn’t fall very high on the to-do list. If you want to improve your health and increase your productivity, try getting more sleep!
We’ve all experienced the brain-fog and the feeling of heaviness in our bodies following a bad night of sleep, but you may not have noticed just how much it affects your singing voice. When your vocal folds and breath support are thick and sluggish you must take extra care in gently warming up your voice to avoid abusing or even damaging your instrument. Vocal fatigue can lead to losses of control, range, and the concentration necessary to maintain good singing technique.
For those of you that are fans of neuroscience, you might get a kick out of these TED Talks:
Russell Foster: Why do we sleep?
Jeff Iliff: One more reason to get a good night’s sleep
For those of you who prefer the Cliff’s Notes:
- Negatively affects your memory, concentration, reasoning and reflexes
- Makes you crave carbohydrates (sugar) which can lead to weight problems
- Increases stress, which makes you irritable
- Leads to suppressed immunity
- Raises blood pressure and leads to cardiovascular disease
- Makes you turn to stimulants such as caffeine
- Enhances creativity, concentration and attention
- Aids in decision-making
- Leads to improved health
- Reinforces new learned skills – Synaptic connections are strengthened while we sleep
I cannot stress the importance of that last point enough. When learning a new skill, the brain strengthens those newly-formed synaptic pathways while you sleep. If you want to get better at something as challenging as singing, practice it, then sleep on it!
We all know that we should be getting at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night, but our 21st century lifestyle makes it very difficult to do so. Here are some tips that just might make it a little easier:
- Dim the lights – your body makes the sleep hormone, melatonin, when your eyes sense the fading of the light. Start turning down the lights as bed time approaches
- Turn off the TV and read a relaxing book – See above… you’re staring at a brightly-lit screen! The same thing goes for tablets and phones. Disconnect and try to relax.
- Listen to music without words – For most singers, background music can be very distracting if we know the words. Explore some of the awesome symphonic or solo instrumental repertoire.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol – Caffeine after 2pm can lead to the need to relax with a “night-cap.” Both caffeine and alcohol disturb sleep. They are acceptable in moderation but can also be addictive.