Being a singer can mean a lot of late nights and early mornings of performances and practicing. But if you are not getting enough sleep, you could make yourself susceptible to voice injury or impede healing a vocal injury.

Why is sleep important?

Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, but only about a third of us get the sleep we need. Like the rest of your body, your voice needs rest. Sleep is involved in repairing your body. Not only is it involved in healing your heart and blood vessels and helping your immune system fight foreign bodies, it also releases a hormone that boosts muscle mass and repairs cells.

What if I don’t sleep enough?

A lack of sleep can affect your voice in a number of ways. If you are exhausted you won’t have the energy to breathe properly while using your voice without straining it, which can cause vocal fatigue, CEENTA Voice & Swallowing Specialist Lori Ellen Sutton, MA, CCC-SLP, said. Also, you won’t have the energy to think about how you’re using your voice or take care of it during the day. Finally, tired people tend to drink more caffeine, which can dehydrate you and cause mucus buildup on the vocal folds.

If you sing while your voice is tired, you can develop hoarseness. Hoarseness is a condition when your voice sounds breathy, raspy, or strained. It is a symptom of a condition, not a condition itself. Laryngitis, an inflammation of the vocal cords due to illness, is the most common cause of hoarseness. However, vocal fold lesions such as nodules, polyps, and cysts can also develop on the vocal cords. They can be caused when you strain to talk or sing.

“Previous studies have shown that sleep deprivation and fatigue may produce recognizable, consistent, and measurable voice changes,” CEENTA Sleep Services Medical Director Fariha Abbasi-Feinberg, MD, said. “Being aware and training your voice may actually help overcome some of these changes.”

It’s important to remember that raspy voices are not natural. If your voice is regularly hoarse, it is a sign that your vocal cords are being overworked.

What can I do to get more rest?

Many people would like to sleep more at night, but have trouble falling asleep. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to solve that problem:

  • Set a bedtime routing involving light reading, listening to calming music, or something else relaxing.
  • Avoid too much light stimulation, particularly from tablets, cell phones, laptops, and e-readers. Turn them off 60-90 minutes before bed.
  • Don’t drink more than 16 ounces of caffeine a day, and stop drinking it at least six hours before bed.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise 5-6 hours before bed.
  • Make mornings bright by turning on lights or opening the shades, which will help make you awake and alert in the morning.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bed.
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime.

Heavy meals, alcohol, and nicotine can also contribute to acid reflux, which can also affect the voice.

Also, if your voice is fatigued, it’s important to not just get more sleep, but to rest it during the day. In an eight-hour day, schedule several 15-minute periods where you don’t talk.

Any hoarseness that does not resolve itself in 2-3 weeks should be evaluated by an ENT doctor, preferably someone who specializes in voice care.

Your voice is just as important as the rest of your body, and making sure you get enough sleep will help ensure it stays as rested and healthy as the rest of you.

To make an appointment with one of CEENTA’s sleep or voice and swallowing specialists, call 704-295-3000.