Updated: Jan 8
The end of the calendar year is the perfect moment to take time to reflect, plan for the future, and set goals. Most singers experience a post-semester, post-audition season, post-holiday church gig break around this time and are consequently in serious need of some R&R. This break also offers the perfect opportunity to start implementing lifestyle changes for a happier and healthier new year. Why not take this time to experiment with a realistic goal that has proven to be a game-changer not only for singing and performing but also for overall health and quality of life? Enter SLEEP.
Too obvious? Hear us out:
We’re not here to expand on the science behind why getting enough sleep is essential to living a happy, healthy life, though the research is fascinating. We’re here to explain how adjusting your sleeping habits to a consistent schedule has the potential to transform your work as a performing artist. Student and emerging professional singers are often forced to take on too much and sacrifice self-care in order to take the steps we need to succeed in this art form. This struggle isn’t necessarily a negative thing; in fact, it helps develop essential skills for building a career in the arts. That being said, we as singers are solely responsible for our own well-being, and it is often too easy to ignore our own needs in the face of potentially fulfilling our vocation. Here’s the thing: we can guarantee that the best version of yourself you want to present to the opera world is not one that is sleep-deprived!
The key is to aim for going to bed around the same time every night and waking up around the same time every morning. Managing a consistent, plentiful sleep schedule will undoubtedly improve your daily motivation and work ethic, keep you feeling energized without mid-afternoon energy crashes, help you stay focused post-day job, and alleviate any feelings of anxiety about not being able to catch up on lost sleep over the weekend. The challenge behind creating a sleep schedule is deciding what you’re willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Keep in mind that when those sacrifices are made in the interest of fulfilling your greatest passion and ambition, they seem less like a loss. Don't let the fear of missing out get in the way of your goals. The return on investment will be so great, there’s almost no decision to make.
Tips for Improving Sleep Habits
Performing inevitably requires some late nights, making maintaining a consistent sleep schedule less than ideal. You may also just naturally prefer late nights to early mornings. As long as you are able to fit in your optimal amount of sleep hours and go to bed around the same time most nights, the time you choose to schedule for sleep is completely up to you. However, if you find yourself going to bed too late to get enough sleep before your morning commitments, here’s what we would suggest:
Get ready for bed as soon as you’re home for the night, even if it is still hours before you intend to sleep. Change into pajamas, take off your makeup, etc. to set yourself up for a seamless transition from waking hours to sleeping. Just as throwing on workout clothes can help motivate you to get to the gym, preparing yourself for bed helps jumpstart the mental and physical process of settling down for the night.
Stop looking at your phone at least an hour before you plan to go to bed. More often than not, checking social media one last time or reading the news won’t help you achieve a relaxed state of mind. Research also suggests that blue light can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate and differentiate waking and sleeping hours. When the sun goes down, your body naturally begins producing more melatonin; however, blue light can throw off that internal clock and create a sense of false daylight.
Create a pre-bedtime routine. Just as many singers use a pre-performance routine to prepare for optimal singing, a pre-bedtime can be incredibly useful for establishing consistent sleeping patterns. This routine can be anything from reading for 20 minutes to meditating to watching a short episode of your favorite sitcom. Choose a small kindness you can enjoy and do it regularly enough that, over time, the activity of choice will help signal your mind and body that it’s time to wind down.
Transform your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. Invest in some high-quality sheets and a fluffy comforter that make your body instantly relax when you get into bed. You could also try an oil diffuser that gently perfumes the air with calming scents like lavender and eucalyptus or even a noise machine that softly plays the sound of rain or ocean waves. Make your bedroom a space that you look forward to spending time in, not a space that causes anxiety and stress.
Breaks from major singing commitments provide the perfect opportunity to test out new habits such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Chances are, getting more sleep will make those other goals you’ve set out to achieve much more attainable. Why not make 2019 your most successful year yet?