Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

Sleep-It's a biological imperative!

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Almost every musician I know wants to sleep more and sleep better, irregardless of age or job.  A recent study indicated that 50-70 million Americans have issues sleeping or have a chronic sleeping disorder.  Yikes! Looking at a list of sleep disorders includes everything from sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome to insomnia, bedwetting, and chronic nightmares.  I was listening to a terrific podcast with Dr. Adrian Williams, a British somnologist, and realized that most musicians don't really take into account how important sleep is for stress, cellular repair, and whole body wellness.

So first, what happens when we don't sleep?  To keep it simple, the short answer is bad things happen. 

Physiological consequences: increase in blood pressure, increase in headaches, increase in risk for diabetes due to sugar processing issues, weight gain or inability to lose weight, decrease in reaction speed, decreased immunity, increase in pain sensitivity, diminished sex drive, genetic alteration (meaning that gene function is affected by sleep), and increase in depression.   There's also a tentative link between diminished sleep and increase for cancers, but that is still very much being studied. 

I definitely have known people convinced that they don't need sleep. 

I definitely have known people convinced that they don't need sleep. 

None of those sound great, but then there are:

Social/Emotional Consequences: irritability, inability to focus, diminished concentration, risk taking increases, and difficulty learning new concepts.  These are some of the reasons that children need enough sleep in order to learn! 

My dog is an excellent sleeper, for the record.  Even while wearing knitted yoda ears.

My dog is an excellent sleeper, for the record.  Even while wearing knitted yoda ears.

When we don't sleep enough, we affect the people in our lives on a social level with our own behavior, but we also impact our work environment and colleagues as well.  We are less focused while practicing and rehearsing, which can be extremely challenging anyways!  The average person needs 8 hours of sleep, but some people get by with 6 and some 9.  I'm more of an 8 hour person myself, but I know others who feel great with 6 hours. 

Sleep is obviously a biological requirement, but here are some of the concrete physiological benefits courtesy of sleep.org.  While sleeping:

-Your cerebral spinal fluid pumps more quickly through the brain, removing cellular waste, and giving you the chance for a fresh start in the morning.

-Your heart rate lowers, as well as blood pressure, which decreases the impact on the heart.  If the body lacks that chance to slow down through consistent sleep, heart disease risk increases.

-Your breath also normalizes to a slow constant rhythm.  This also puts your autonomic nervous system in the place of "rest and digest" rather than "fight or flight" which is necessary!  A lack of regular sleep therefore impacts digestion and metabolism.

-Your cellular repair happens at night.  Your connective tissues regrow at night, removing cellular waste and promoting cellular growth. 

More next time on sleeping better, but the next time you think about skipping on sleep, maybe reconsider a little?


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