It’s no secret that sleep is good for your health. But how does it affect you as a singer – and will snoring or napping impact those all-important vocals?
You may not realise how much sleep does affect the singing voice. There’s a direct connection between sleep, snoring, napping and singing. Getting not only enough but the right quality of sleep is essential to every singer’s vocal health, sound and strength.
Find out how many hours a night you need, whether your snoring presents a risk to your health, and how to nap for optimum performance, as we explore the ways in which singing is affected by sleep.
How much does sleep affect the singing voice?
As a nation, we’re getting less and less shut-eye. Sealy’s World Sleep Census polled more than 15,000 participants worldwide, to discover more about our international sleeping habits. It provided a fascinating insight. Around 77% of Brits said they feel tired every day. 42% of us are kept awake by a partner snoring. And over 20% of us experience insomnia.
As a nation, we’re exhausted. 24/7 living including shift working, and the continual visual and audio stimulation of smart technology are worsening our ability to get a decent night’s sleep. The blue light from screens has an effect on our production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that tells us when to sleep and wake up.
Does sleep affect your voice?
Yes! Lack of sleep has a huge impact on muscle and cognitive function. That includes those muscles we use to sing. If we feel tired, then our voice is tired too. This is why prioritising bedtime is important for singers.
How does lack of sleep affect your voice?
Lack of sleep affects the quality and power of our singing voice, while slower cognition means we might forget lyrics, or make mistakes more easily. A tired voice is more prone to damage and will not be in top form. You may struggle to reach higher notes and perform faster segments effectively.
Successful people used to boast of managing with very little sleep, but that trend has reversed. Here’s Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on why plenty of sleep is a vital ingredient to his ongoing success:
He gets 8 hours a night. Which brings us onto…
How much sleep do singers need?
This guide indicates how much sleep you should be aiming for, according to your age. As you can see there is quite a bit of variation and this is because we’re all different. Monitor your own sleep by making a sleep diary. How do you feel after a certain amount? If you find you do well on 7 hours a night, that’s fine. But if you’re feeling tired or sleepy during the day, so you need to get earlier nights.
You should not be getting less than the minimum recommended amounts of sleep on a regular basis. Of course, there will always be the odd late night or early start, but when you’re frequently burning the candle at both ends, you’ll have a problem.
Napping before singing
If you have lost out on sleep, a power nap will do you the world of good. Don’t sleep for too long -10 or 20 minutes is enough. And do it a couple of hours before a gig or show, so that you have time to for the voice to wake up properly again before you perform.
But what is it that’s keeping you awake at night? Is it Netflix (apparently their biggest competitor is cited as sleep)? Or social media addiction? Perhaps you have noisy neighbours, flatmates, live in a busy city, or your room is too bright? Or it’s possible you could have a sleep disorder.
Singing and sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop (and start) breathing while asleep. If you have this you may need to visit a specialist sleep clinic as it can be dangerous if left untreated. Those with severe obstructive sleep apnea can be given a special sleeping mask (a CPAP machine) to pump air into your body while you sleep. This will improve your sleep quality and is free on the NHS.
What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea?
Here are the symptoms you need to look out for if you think you may have sleep apnea.
- Gasping, choking or snorting in your sleep
- Waking up a lot in the night
- Stopping and starting breathing while asleep
- Snoring loudly
- Feeling consistently tired, with headaches, mood swings or difficulty concentrating during the day
Does sleep apnea affect singing?
As sleep apnea leaves you feeling, it will have an impact on your voice. But the good news is that singing actually helps treat sleep apnea. So as a singer, your symptoms will likely be less severe and can be improved.
Can sleep apnea be cured with an exercise – like yoga for sleep apnea?
Yoga for sleep apnea will improve the condition by opening up the airways through yogic breathing techniques and postures. It’s not possible to completely cure it, but by making it more manageable you’ll encounter less physical issues with your sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea exercises
If you have sleep apnea there are specific exercises you can do that’ll help. And they double up as vocal warm-up exercises too.
Oropharyngeal exercises for sleep apnea
Improving oropharyngeal muscle tone helps to treat sleep apnea. The oropharynx is the area of the that just behind the mouth. It’s made up of the base of the tongue, the soft palate, the tonsils and the sides and back of the throat. These are all areas worked in speech lessons and vocal coaching. Here are some exercises you can try at home:
- Push the tip of your tongue against the hard palate and slide your tongue backwards.
- Suck entire tongue up against your hard palate (the roof of your mouth).
- Force the back of the tongue against the floor of your mouth while touching the tip of the tongue to your bottom teeth.
- Lift the soft palate and uvula (the little fleshy flap that hangs down at the back of your throat) while saying Ah.
These will need to be repeated many times, at several intervals through the day.
Breathing exercises for sleep apnea
Breathing exercises will really help with your sleep apnea and they’re the foundation for singing technique. We’ve compiled the best ones to clear your airways and develop correct breathing methods for vocalists.
Myofunctional therapy exercises for sleep apnea
Myofunctional therapy works the same muscles that you use to chew and swallow. These have an impact on the working of your airways during sleep. Incorrect or poor use of these muscles may exacerbate sleep apnea, so this kind of therapy will improve symptoms – along with your diction for singing.
Sleep apnea exercises PDF
If you prefer to download and print out exercises, you may find these PDF formats useful:
Singing for sleep apnea – classes
As it’s proven that singing helps sleep apnea by strengthening the soft palate and throat muscles, it’s no surprise that your doctor may suggest enrolling in some singing classes. If you’re brand new to music, perhaps consider joining a friendly choir, or working through some YouTube tutorials.
Can snoring damage vocal cords?
Snoring dehydrates the vocal folds and that isn’t good for them, however, this doesn’t classify as damage. While you won’t do any serious harm, your voice will be impacted by the dryness, so make sure you drink plenty of water and try to improve your snoring.
Does singing prevent snoring?
Yes! As singing works the muscles in the throat and mouth and encourages deep, sustained breath control, those who practise singing are less likely to snore (or at least, snore less). And if you do snore badly, taking up singing is a great way to improve it.
What helps a tired singing voice?
If snoring (yours or someone else’s) has kept you awake and your voice is feeling tired, run through a gentle warm-up with plenty of humming exercises, focussing on vibration. Drink some ginseng or liquorice tea to invigorate your voice.
How do I get my voice back in minutes?
If you need to get your voice going quickly, you could suck on a VocalZone of Fisherman’s Friends lozenge. Drink lots of lukewarm water. You can also fill a bowl with hot water and lean over (not into) it with a towel over your head. The steam will help open up your airways. However, if you’ve really lost your voice, it’ll take significantly longer than a few minutes to get it back.
Do professional singers snore?
Although vocal techniques do improve snoring, some people’s physiology does predispose them to it. So unfortunately even professional singers snore. They just snore less and more quietly than they would if they didn’t sing.
Best sleeping position for singers
If you sleep on your back, make sure your pillow isn’t too large. If your head is pushed up and forward too far every night, it can lead to decreased lung capacity in the long term, as well as spinal issues. It also worsens sleep apnea and asthma. Sleeping side on is good. Bend your knees slightly and perhaps place a small pillow between them, to maintain pelvic alignment.
My voice gets hoarse when tired – can lack of sleep cause hoarseness?
Lack of sleep will contribute to voice loss and hoarseness, although a bad night shouldn’t have a dramatic impact. It’s likely you already have a vocal strain that’s worsening when tired. First, take some time out for vocal rest. Get plenty of sleep, then look at your technique, ideally with a vocal coach.
Another reason for hoarseness can be snoring. In which case you may want to change your sleeping position or try an over the counter snoring remedy from your local pharmacy.
Things that are bad for your singing voice
Anything that dehydrates or tires the voice, like excessive alcohol and shouting will impact your singing, and are to be avoided.
My voice changes throughout the day – why does my voice get deeper sometimes?
What you eat and drink affects your vocal quality. So does your level of tiredness and if you’ve had a cigarette. Your voice generally improves during the day though. You wake up and are groggy, but as the hours pass your voice warms, the muscles activate and you gain range and tone – particularly if you’re doing vocal exercises.
Why do I lose my voice at night?
If you’ve been using your voice all day long, by night time, like the rest of your body – and your mind – it becomes tired and worn out. And this is, even more, the case if you’re out partying too late.
My voice gets tired when I talk
Speaking can be every bit as tiring on the voice as singing. Whispering, despite the low volume, is actually the worst thing for your voice when it’s tired and far from restful. If you’re a teacher or actor, warming up before beginning a day of talking, or prior to a speech or presentation, will help you sound clear and confident. Your voice will last longer too.
Why does my voice change when I get sick?
Coughs, colds and flu are the biggest culprits when it comes to vocal changes. This is because mucus builds up, blocking the airways and often reducing or lowering your range. Mucus is actually there as the body’s natural protectant, but when it goes into overdrive it’s no fun. Avoid dairy products to reduce mucus production.
However, it’s not always a bad thing. Remember that time in the TV show Friends, when Phoebe gets sick and sounds better than ever?
Sing for health – why is singing good for you?
Now you know that singing can even help sleep and snoring. If you read many of our articles, you’ll know that singing is good for all aspects of not only your physical health but your mental health too.
We generally don’t breathe deeply, or slowly enough in everyday life. It’s something that has a detrimental effect on our bodies, especially our vital organs, immune and nervous systems. Singing develops breathing technique, as well as working the core muscles, which protect the joints, bones and ligaments. It also makes you happy. And that in itself is excellent for you.
So if you didn’t already have enough reasons to start singing or sing more, then you can add to the sleep benefits to the list. By developing your voice you’ll not only become a more skilled artist, but you’ll also get better shut-eye too.
Can you get worse at singing – can you lose your singing voice by not practising?
As singing uses muscles, it’s possible for your singing voice to get out of shape just like the rest of your body when you don’t exercise it. Additionally, lack of practice – especially with breathing – will cause your voice to become weaker and therefore more prone to damage or loss.
Can vocal cords be damaged by intubation?
Tracheal intubation can cause temporary hoarseness or vocal cord damage. But it is a very common and widespread procedure which has been undergone repeatedly by countless professional singers. If you have any concerns or experience issues following intubation, speak to your doctor – not Google!
What are the symptoms of a damaged vocal cord?
There are three main symptoms to indicate you may have damage. If you’re hoarse or find your voice changes for a period of more than two weeks if you are in pain or discomfort when using your voice, and if you have severe vocal fatigue. A laryngologist will be able to determine if this is the case.
How much does sleep affect your singing voice? Has snoring hindered or napping helped your performances? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below?