Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rest Your Mind and Your Voice

Countless nutritionists, physicians, sleep experts and various other medical professionals are always touting the numerous reasons why sleep is SO important to your health. I am here to offer you one more reason, your VOICE.

You rarely hear about a voiceover artist bragging about practicing habits that are obviously detrimental to their voice (such as drinking excessively or voicing a long script when they are stricken with something such as laryngitis), yet you often hear people trading war stories about their lack of sleep. They wear these stories almost as if a badge of pride, talking about how late they stayed awake to work on an audition just to wake up only a few hours later to voice a job for a repeat client. I'm always surprised to see these stories, considering how much sleep impacts vocal performance.

By now you probably know the effect that sleep has on your voice without even realizing it. Does your voice sound different in the morning, afternoon and evening? Chances are that your voice sounds it's deepest in the morning, when your vocal chords are the most rested. Some of our students claim that their optimal voice is 2-3 hours after waking up and others say that their voice is at it's best immediately when they roll out of bed. Depending on the type of script you are reading, you may choose to voice different jobs at varying times of the day.

There have been studies that link a lack of sleep to the constriction of your vocal chords. After a restless night, you will find that your voice may have difficulty reaching or sustaining notes in a higher octave and it almost seems as if your vocal chords are sore. So unless you're going for that 'I've spent all night in a smoky bar' sound, make sure that you get a full night's rest!

If your short evenings of rest become habitual, you must be very careful not to continue to put stress on your vocal chords when they are at a less than optimal performance level. Although most vocal strain is reversible, you can develop nodules on your vocal chords if you keep repeating this action over a long period of time. Although nodules can typically be removed surgically, you run the risk of missing out on income generated by voiceover jobs while recovering from surgery, if not changing your voice itself permanently.

Don't forget that a lack of sleep also puts a damper on your energy level. This can be extremely detrimental if you're voicing a script that needs a high-energy level or a reading that is particularly lengthy. Your audience may never have a chance to see what your body does behind the mic, but it is still imperative that your energy level comes across appropriately in your voice. Sometimes the best auditions are achieved by physically moving your body to up the energy level of a read. This can seem like quite a large task if you're exhausted.

The amount of sleep that you need can vary greatly. It can be anywhere between 5-9 hours (or more). Recent studies have shown that 8.25 hours of sleep is the optimal amount for our bodies and that anything less can decrease cognitive functions. Unfortunately, there aren't many people out there that are able to get the full 8.25 hours of sleep each night, so instead of focusing on the number of hours that you sleep, focus on the quality of those hours. If you have a fitful 9 hours of sleep, it will obviously be less restful than a solid 6 hours.

To ensure that you're getting a quality night's rest, make sure that you're in a dark, quiet room. You also shouldn't consume any alcohol or caffeine close to bed time, you should make sure that you don't eat a late dinner or exercise right before you lay down and try to keep your mind as stress-free as possible in the time leading up to your rest. Also remember that your bedroom should be thought of as your room of rest. Outside stimulus such as a television or a computer has been shown to interrupt the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which directly affects your quality of sleep.

I've found that my personal sleep requirements tend to vary depending on quite a few factors. My physical health, recent physical activity and stress levels are three examples of variables that change my sleep requirements on a daily basis. In general, just try to listen to your body and rest when you feel tired. Your body will do a wonderful job of telling you when you need to rest, all you have to do is listen!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

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