Know When to Call it a Night...
April 23, 2019
To ensure the most optimal vocal quality and vocal health, it is essential to honor the crucial role played by none other than star performer: adequate sleep. Achieving seven to nine hours of sleep is of the highest importance to physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being, and helps us to make good decisions that can significantly benefit many aspects of our lives. Note: the word “achieving” was chosen because as we might assume nowadays, it may be close to impossible to attain this amount of nightly sleep. But it is a goal we must prioritize to reach (and achieve), as our vocal and general health are depending on us. By getting enough rest via nightly sleep, we are better able to combat stress, maintain energy and focus, and choose positive lifestyle and dietary habits (ex: water versus caffeine or energy drinks, healthy foods versus fast food, exercise over being lazy, etc.).
Sleep plays a critical role in repairing your body—healing your heart and blood vessels, helping your immune system fight germs and illness, and also releasing a hormone that boosts muscle mass and repairs cells (National Institute of Health). Without necessary sleep, the body does not have adequate time to repair and regenerate the cells and tissues that have been actively used (and occasionally abused or misused) all day long. Without necessary sleep, you could make yourself susceptible to vocal injury or inhibit healing of a known (or unknown) vocal injury. Research has found that only about one-third of us get the amount of sleep that we need. Just like the rest of our bodies, THE VOICE NEEDS REST.
The overall fatigue and “sluggishness” after inadequate sleep adversely affects many aspects of human performance and creates very recognizable voice changes as well. Without proper sleep, the body can become out of alignment, which will negatively affect the vocal mechanism and its important role in supporting the voice. Respiratory support will be reduced and since air IS the foundation for voice, this will dramatically impact vocal use and quality by negatively affecting the mechanics of vocal production—and usually result in effort/strain versus airflow to produce voice. Speaking or singing with a “tired” voice can lead to dysphonia (hoarseness). This also causes vocal fatigue, which will negatively affect your quality of voice and resulting quality of work, communication, and/or interaction with others. In addition, if the body is out of alignment, the openness of the vocal tract/resonating cavity is negatively impacted and therefore (again) the voice may be created with tension/effort versus ease and resonance. In addition, if/when the vocal folds are fatigued because of decreased sleep, they will be more prone to injury (swelling, irritation, inflammation, nodules, polpys, cysts, etc.). In addition to your body naturally overcompensating for a “tired voice”, you will lack the energy required to appropriately take care of and efficiently use your voice throughout the day. This presumed lack of energy may prompt you to reach for “fake energy” in the forms of caffeine and/or energy drinks, and these may dehydrate you and create additional mucus on the vocal folds or even reflux.
A November 2018 study in the Journal of Voice (Rocha & Behlau) found that sleep quality influences voice, and that perceived poor sleep quality is related to perceived poor vocal quality. Individuals with a voice handicap (negative self-perception of voice) observe a greater influence of sleep on voice than those without a voice handicap. If you consistently feel vocally fatigued in your “work” setting (or in general), prioritize sleep at night. If you know you do not "achieve" seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, prioritize sleep at night. In addition, also consider the importance of several short vocal naps within your day (periods of five to thirty minutes where you do not talk). Set your voice up for success by prioritizing your SLEEP.
Sleep is an essential time of rest for our minds, souls, and bodies—and crucial for the health, performance, and longevity of our VOICE.