Any singer who suffers from chronic sleep deprivation understands that it feels like drowning in quick sand! The harder you struggle, the more exhausted and hopeless you get. Chronic sleep deprivation robs us of the freedom and control we count on for good singing technique. And your artistic expression becomes about straining to survive from one moment to the next. What is more frustrating?!
This post offers solutions for one of the most ruinous problems a singer is confronted with: chronic sleep deprivation.
Finding Out What Causes Insomnia
First let’s define the problem and then we will discover the best solutions.
As briefly mentioned in the video linked above, sometimes medication causes insomnia. Always read the labels of over-the-counter medications. In the US, all manufacturers of medications are required by law to conduct double-blind testing and to report all side effects to the FDA. You should read product labels and make common sense decisions, about whether or not you should take the particular medication. Remember there is likely a natural remedy that will work well and cause essentially no side effects.
Numerous prescription medications are known to cause insomnia and sometimes can also cause chronic sleep deprivation. Here again, laws require manufacturers to report all side effects discovered in the clinical trials they must conduct, for each and every medication. It is always best to ask your pharmacist and also ask your doctor, whether a medication is likely to cause insomnia. And please be sure to read labels and package inserts about your medications.
Sometimes pharmacies include a pamphlet of drug information that is intended for medical professionals. This type of package insert comes from the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug. But this information is mainly intended for medical professionals. For the rest of us, it is overly complicated technical jargon. Don’t be intimated and don’t waste your time, trying to decipher any of that. Instead be sure to ask your pharmacist and your doctor to discuss side effects of your medications.
Here is one source on which you can search using the name of the drug and find reported side effects. And there are other similar websites for finding adverse effects of specific medications. Explore the options and choose what works best for your individual needs.
Alcohol, Caffeine, Smoking, Diet, Reflux Cause Chronic Sleep Deprivation
Let’s take these one by one. Alcohol is a drug. Any pharmacist and any doctor will confirm that alcohol is a drug. It is classified as a “depressant.”
“Feeling no pain,” the temporary high from drinking alcohol does not last very long. Unfortunately when this wears off, the depressant effect of alcohol kick in. So now your mood is even lower than before you drank the alcohol!
Here is a good video on how caffeine and alcohol each can cause chronic sleep deprivation:
Smoking is another cause of sleeping disorders. Specialists who have studied the effects of nicotine warn us that it is just as addictive as cocaine and heroine. And for many people, nicotine is reportedly even more addictive than alcohol.
People in this particular side boat know better than the rest of us that they frequently awaken in the night, because they need a nicotine fix. So we have yet another ill effect of a substance ruining your chance for a decent night’s sleep!
Diet and Reflux Interfering with Your Sleep
For people with sleep troubles, foods with a lot of refined sugar, simple carbs, and foods with high fat content are among the worst choices. Avoid these types of food at least 3-4 hours before going to sleep.
Any food suspected to cause reflux should be eliminated from your life, at least within 3-4 hours of sleeping. If you have ever been woken up by the intense burning of acid reflux, then you already know how miserable it is! And it takes probably 45 minutes to an hour or so, at least for me, to feel that the stomach is half-way recovered and that the reflux is no longer hanging around.
The post on how to get rid of acid reflux mentions that one likely cause is a lack of hydrochloric acid, naturally produced in the stomach, for proper digestion. A great natural remedy for this is a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar, taken before meals. When the stomach does not produce enough of its own natural digestive juices, reflux can easily occur.
Think of this. Everyone tries to prevent reflux with medications that block and eliminate acid. Isn’t it ironic that the cause of reflux can often be lack of digestive acid normally produced in the stomach?! If this makes sense to you, please do try the apple cider vinegar remedy.
Your doctor will likely recommend that you elevate the head of your bed, as a way to prevent reflux. My personal solution to this one is to use a back rest pillow or “husband pillow.” Here is the exact product I use and personally swear by:
What Forms of Stress Are Ruining Your Sleep?
On the page of Recommended Products, I could not resist including this profoundly effective natural remedy for stress, including performance anxiety and chronic sleep deprivation. If you take just a very few minutes to learn this simple technique, your whole life will be so much easier! Here’s the video:
This is a rare exception of when “one size fits all” is true! No matter what the cause of your stress is, the “relaxation breath exercise” will help enormously. And just so you know, it is also sometimes called the “4-7-8 breath exercise.”
If you practice any sort of meditation or yoga, learning this incredible breathing exercise will be an immediately perfect fit for you. But even if you have never worked with yoga or with meditation, the “relaxation breath exercise” is the ideal natural remedy for you! I am persuaded it will work powerfully, on a deep level, for literally anyone and everyone.
As mentioned in another post, a few minutes of aerobic exercise will compound the benefits. You get more bang for your buck! The healthy circulation and extra oxygen from aerobic exercise is potent complement for our “4-7-8 breath exercise.” Far better than I can put into words, this miraculous feeling is something you can and will experience throughout your entire physical and mental well being.
All you have to do is sit down for 5 minutes and try it, using the instructional video above. So incredibly simple, yet tremendously healthy on every level. Your sleep will vastly improve. Please try this one now!
There is another wonderful natural remedy for general stress reduction, called palm reflexology. The instructions are very simple, found right here.
Singing with Chronic Sleep Deprivation
So what’s the big deal? Why can’t you just go ahead and sing on little or sleep? This is always your free choice. But it can be helpful to have the facts, concerning the vocal anatomy and the burdens placed upon it, by chronic sleep deprivation.
You know how your body feels when you miss a night’s sleep. Every muscle has to worker harder to accomplish the most basic movements. Exhausted muscles tend to drag and feel heavy and slow.
Without good sleep, it is as if the entire body and mind are trying to navigate through heavy fog. We simply are not able to respond well, when the brain sends commands for the muscles to make the specific movements that we want.
Keep in mind that singing technique relies greatly upon muscle memory. We sing well when we coordinate muscles throughout the body that are both large and small. In particular the muscles of the vocal anatomy are small and fine. Lack of good sleep causes the muscles to be exhausted and lethargic. Bottom line: it is much more difficult and risky to sing well, when the body is suffering from lack of sleep.
Dehydration and Swollen Vocal Cords
Unless you have been up all night drinking a lot of water, you can count on insomnia causing dehydration. And when we insist upon singing under these circumstances, it is assured that the vocal folds will swell. This is the condition I refer to as “vocal quick sand.” When the muscles and the brain are exhausted from lack of sleep, the more you struggle with your voice, the more your singing goes downhill!
PREVENTION: How to Get Out in Front of the Problem
Insomnia and sleep deprivation are not for you! Let’s focus right now on preventing the nightmare of insomnia, to save you from the ill effects upon your voice and your singing.
As usual, my solutions are primarily natural remedies, whenever possible. Dr. Andrew Weil remains my go-to, for his vast wisdom and experience, successfully treating thousands of patients. It should be said once more that Dr. Weil’s instructions for learning the “4-7-8 breath exercise,” are available in the above-linked video (and via the following link). You cannot go wrong with this one, as it likely will work more powerfully than any substance anywhere. I urge you again to please try this first!
And Dr. Weil does believe that melatonin is a top choice to combat chronic sleep deprivation. Here is a very helpful article in which Dr. Weil says that the two best natural sleep remedies are the herb valerian and the hormone called melatonin.
Valerian is available as a standardized extract, in this product among many others:
About the recommended dose of melatonin, in sublingual tablets, Dr. Weil says to take 2.5 mg before bedtime for occasional use. He explains that if you want to use melatonin frequently, a much lower dose works better. Please read the details on this in the article linked above. The product linked next is a 3 mg. sublingual tablet. There are many reputable brands available in a wide range of milligram amounts. Please email me if you need help locating the product you want.
From personal experience, I know that valerian is a potent sleep remedy which almost certainly will cause you to sleep. However, I personally discovered that I am allergic to this herb, unfortunately. It caused a wide-spread itching rash over much of my skin. But allergies to herbs are not terribly common.
If you know or suspect that you have a hypersensitivity to this or any other herbal remedy, and if you still want to try valerian, please start with a very small dose. In my opinion, the starting dose might be about one-quarter of the dose recommended on the product label or by Dr. Weil.
As always, consult your own doctor and allow your common sense and wisdom to be your ultimate guide, for deciding whether to try any new remedy. Stop taking any substance immediately, if you have a reaction that indicates you even might be allergic. There are other choices for natural remedies! With a little perseverance, you will discover the best one(s) for your personal health needs.
When Melatonin is Not for You
A Question of Kava Kava
In the early 2000s, this herb was all the rage for treating insomnia and anxiety. Here Dr. Weil offers a note of caution but does not exclude the great healing potential of kava kava.
Your Comments Mean the Most!
Do share your own suggestions for remedies to deal with sleep problems. In the comment section, tell us whether you prefer conventional treatments, prescription medications, or natural remedies for helping you sleep well. It is your contribution that enables us to all learn the most and help each other, as fellow singers!
Have you scheduled your first lesson yet? It’s FREE! Email me now: Gretchen@SingingAndYou.com!
This post has covered many of the finest and most effective natural remedies for chronic sleep deprivation.
All singers can benefit by the support provided here, ending the torment of sleep loss to discover joyful singing and good vocal health!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure here.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE.
This website does not provide medical advice. The purpose of this blog is to share my expert opinions. This website is not an attempt to practice medicine or to provide medical advice. Nothing read or seen on this website should be used to make any diagnosis or to replace or overrule the judgment of a qualified health care provider. The information contained on this website, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material, is for informational purposes only. Users should not rely upon this website for medical treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health care provider, with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it, because of anything you have read or seen on this website.