Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our life, health and longevity and yet it’s becoming more and more neglected in our society. And this neglect comes with devastating consequences.  As members of the singing voice community, our lack of sleep can compromise our immune system, energy levels, performance outcomes, stifle creativity and build tension in our working relationships. In this episode, we delve into the science of sleep, the need for a sleep revolution, address why you may have trouble sleeping, offer tips for improving sleeping habits and explain how consistent restful sleep can positively impact every area of your life. So if you or someone you know is a restless sleeper, this episode is not to be missed!

In this episode:

00.56 – The importance of Sleep

02.23 – Do you get enough sleep?

03.24 – Benefits of a good nights sleep

07:32 – How much sleep is recommended

08:17 – Problems associated with sleep

12:57 – Sleeps effect on Relationships

14:52 – Stress & anxiety from lack of sleep

19:32 – Solutions to help you sleep better

21:18 – Tip #1 Don’t eat too late

21:47 – Tip #2 Power down before bed

22:37 – Tip #3 All screens off

25:35 – Other useful tips for a better sleep

29:11 – In conclusion

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:56

Sleep is essential and for those of us in the singing voice community, one of the most important things we can do to have positive outcomes in the teaching studio is to sleep well.  

In fact, the new age of sleep science reveals that sleep plays a vital role in our every waking moment and every aspect of our health–from weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer’s. In fact, every major disease in the developed world has very strong links to sleep deficiency. It’s even been argued that sleep is more important for our health than diet or exercise. You may not believe this but sleep also helps with your ability to be more skilled, to be more intelligent, to be less stressed, to be more creative, and to have less tension in your relationships. For me personally, I feel as though I am hung over when I haven’t has enough sleep and I am an emotional basket case when I’m over tired.. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  02:23

Ok Let’s get real here. Do you set an alarm for the mornings and wake up feeling tired as though you have barely had any sleep at all? In the last two weeks, have you had a consistent number of hours sleep? Do you wake up during the night and find it difficult to go back to sleep?  Ok if you answered yes to any of those, good news is that for those who have trouble falling asleep, wake up exhausted, or are wake up throughout the night for whatever reason, help can be found. 

Imagine if you could get the rest you crave, you could feel more energized throughout your day, and start to improve all aspects of your health? 

The truth is that a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be an unrealistic dream—it can be your reality. With some simple tools and methods, you’ll be sleeping better in no time. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:24
You can transform disturbed sleep into peaceful slumber, and start feeling calmer and more engaged throughout your teaching day. 

Think about how your life would change if you could: 

  • Have more energy during your teaching day – how would that impact your teaching outcomes? 
  • If you could reduce stress and improve your mood as a teacher and performer – there goes the grumpy version of you!
  • You could boost your creativity and zest in your practice
  • Strengthen your immune system so you don’t need to take days off 
  • Sleep to heal your mind and body so you can show up at your best every single day.

The impact of all this would be profound, right? Well, that’s what quality sleep can do for you and in your day to day practice—and that’s what we are going to talk about in this episode. We’re going to look at sleep, let’s look at why you’re not sleeping properly and what you can do to rejig your sleeping habits.

Rejuvenating activities always start with sleep the night before. So, what that means is that it is all well and good to set up all these amazing strategies and routines for starting your day to be productive and to have positive outcomes, but all that preparation work actually starts the nights before. And yet what we are finding is that in today’s fast-paced, always-connected, forever on demand- constantly stressed out and sleep-deprived world, our need for a good night’s sleep is more important–and yet more elusive–than ever. 

And as a singer, sleep plays a major role in performance, so simply put, lack of sleep leads to fatigue and stress, which tends to result in excess tension and inefficient use of the voice. And when you’re a singer, you need every cell of your body, online functioning, to support your artistry. 

That being said, there are times in the singers life when getting enough sleep can’t be the priority. I actually do understand that having that many hours of sleep is not always easy, and I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching here. I know what it’s like and it’s tough when you have a ridiculously busy schedule. I was in a situation for years where I had a teaching job that I had to be up early for, then I would go home and get ready for performances that kept me up till the early hours of the morning, I was a single mom with a young child who I had to take care of in between all this work, in fact at one stage, I was doing 11 gigs a week, and I was teaching three days a week. I had a residency where I was performing on a pedal steamer from 7pm till 10pm seven nights a week, and then I would go and sing in a piano bar at a nightclub 4 nights a week from 10:30pm till 3am. 

I did this for three months, and I can tell you that at the end of it. Not only was I physically burnt out and maxed out, but I was feeling depressed. As a single mum, I did what I had to do to pay off a mortgage, feed my child and educate her at a private school, but at the end of it, you know what I was no good for anybody, let alone my child. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:32

So how much sleep do you need? It’s been said, that the average adult requires 7 – 9 hours sleep per night in order to have the stamina to survive the day ahead and to conquer all the tasks they are required to fulfil in a normal day. In the biggest study, fifty years of sleep science conclusively tells us that the average adult needs 7-71/2 hours sleep for every major area of health. In fact, the latest science is even more specific and tells us that we require an average of 7.3 hours sleep every night. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  08:17

And yet here we are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis, which is having profound consequences to our health, our job performance, our relationships and even our happiness. The crazy thing is that despite the science and all the data around sleep, you still have people who argue with this science and say that “ohhh, not me, I only need 5 hours per night”. So these people may think that they don’t really need that much sleep. Ok Yep, and there are those who are rich, successful, seemingly productive who only have five hours sleep every night, but what if they were to have another three hours sleep? According to the science-based research, every one of these people measured at a high-performance level has been found that they may feel ok, but by not having the required amount of sleep, they are actually cognitively in decline. Five hours sleep is the same as having three beers! I know how I feel after two wines!!! 

Then you have others who have the attitude that “life is too short, why would you want to sleep your life away?” The answer is simple!!! And that is our inability to get enough sleep impacts our lives; undermines our decision making; compromises our health, our athletic performance, our work lives, our relationships and even our sex lives; and causes us to lose control over how we interact with others and engage with the world. Do you need any more reasons to get enough sleep?? Really? It is hard to believe that sleep is so vital and that we are still having this argument. If you are a stats person go read The New York Times bestselling book “The Sleep Revolution” by Arianna Huffington. It will tell you about the long-term danger of sleep deprivation on performance and happiness. Huffington shows how our cultural dismissal of sleep, as being time wasted, compromises all those things and more!!

No one can make an intelligent case for less than seven hours sleep for the human body. You can try to fault the science, you can try to argue the science, and make a case for less sleep but all we have to do is give you three cognitive tests and two wellbeing tests. You cannot lie your way out of a cognitive test and you cannot argue your way out of a brain test. The statistics from over 50 years of science and research are conclusive and do not change and therein lies the information that you are not only less healthy with less sleep but those who sleep less, are less intelligent. Don’t get angry with me about this. I’m not making it up and I’m certainly not trying to shame anyone. This is based on field studies across dozens of different occupations and disciplines. Comparisons have been made within the same industry, at the same time across numerous personnel and the results consistently rank the staff who have the greater amount of sleep to produce greater quality work and greater outcomes.  

This is also relevant to those of us in the singing voice community. Your brain also needs sleep to function well. We are more alert, retain information, and access our emotional intelligence and creativity when our body has had the rest it needs. When you’re learning new material, a good night’s rest will help you memorize more easily lyrics and music, and recall on stage what you’ve memorized in rehearsal. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:57

So how does sleep affect relationships? Did you know too, that you become more irritable and more impatient, the less you sleep. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s been proven that the people who have the greatest and most enduring conflicts in their immediate circle of family and friends, all share one common theme, and that is the lack of rest as well as the lack of communication. Lack of communication can often come from irritability and the lack of sleep creates stress. 

Turns out, that sleep is essential for our social empathy skills. Therefore, sleep also helps us to read social cues and if you are not getting enough sleep, this can become a major problem in the voice studio where you may end of in conflict with your colleagues, parents and even worse your students. 

Without enough sleep, facial expressions become harder to read As a performer, your perception of others can be altered and the slightest miscommunication with your band-mates and your audience, can be catastrophic. Your reputation can be tarnished and people won’t want to work with you.

If you’re a person who is constantly in conflict with others, please check your sleeping patterns. It may very well be worth a go! If you know people who are constantly fighting with others, please check their sleeping patterns too. Sleep could very well be at the root of the problem!!

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  14:52

Lack of sleep doesn’t just affect you physically; it also affects you mentally and emotionally.

Another reason to sleep 7 to 8 hours is because there is a very high correlation between anxiety and anxiety and a lack of sleep. So, if you are having really busy days, teaching all day, going home to answer the emails you didn’t have time to respond to, a massive to do list, then you have household chores, cooking, dealing with children, it all creates stress and this releases the cortisol hormone in our blood, in our bodies, and in our cells. 

When most people go to bed, they think it is relaxing, they feel good, but sleep time is recovery time. What happens to your brain is that it goes into a dishwasher mode when you go into a deep sleep. It’s like when you load the dishwasher before bed and in the morning the dishes are clean. That is what happens to your brain. Neuro chemicals start moving and dealing with the debris of cellular decline, that is the neuro transmitters that get used up, and it also deals with that cortisol, the stress hormone. The dishwasher in your brain doesn’t go on at 10am. It doesn’t go on at noon. The only time it happens is when we go into a deep sleep. So if you have had a sound sleep for the correct amount of time, you will find yourself sharper, smarter, more creative in the mornings. I know I do! I always wake up with all these ideas, I feel more creative and that is because the debris of cell decay and the stress hormones have been dealt with. That is why after a good night’s sleep, you feel less or no stress in the morning, than what you do say in the afternoon. 

And a lot of unhappiness comes from lack of sleep too. Have you ever gone on vacation and you were stressed for weeks on end prior to going away on the vacation. You go away and then you slept the whole time you were gone because you were relaxed? Sometimes you go away and you feel exhausted, in fact worse than you feel while you were at work. I always feel like this the first week of holidays. You have to go with it and not be hard on yourself. Listen your body and you will feel amazing. Sleep will give you a positive mindset. So if you are a grump, look at your sleep patterns. 

For me if I am sleep deprived, I become an emotional mess, I will start crying at the drop of a hat. You can’t even ask me how I am and I will cry and I have done that many a time and it’s every time I haven’t had enough sleep.

I have performed gigs such as the ones I described earlier when I was doing 11 gigs per week and I was severely sleep-deprived. I had to work a lot harder at the gig, to stay at my peak performance levels. I was stressed out because at times my brain wouldn’t function, I couldn’t deal with audience members talking to me in my breaks when I just wanted to be left alone and my mind was filled with negative self-talk. and I was full of self doubt asking myself – am I going to get through this next set, can I make to the end of the night, I can’t keep doing this, I was full of guilt for leaving my child. 

So, what’s really happening here? Your amygdala, the part of your brain that triggers strong, negative emotions, is more easily hijacked when you’re tired. And the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that helps to manage these negative emotions, can’t do its job when you haven’t had enough rest.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  19:32

So if you care about how much work you get done and care about how you treat other people and you care about how you feel, why are we having this conversation about sleep? Oh my goodness. Why? Because common sense is not always common!! You may say that you are just not good at sleeping? You just suck at sleeping? Or that, you are not a natural sleeper. What does that even mean? 

We have an epidemic of people who are challenged with doing anything that is good for them. And there are some people who may have a real clinical issue with sleep, and it’s important to make sure that if that is you, that you see your doctor, and that you follow the protocols your doctor gives you, make sure that you give these protocols a fair go and experiment till you figure it out. Sure, you may have one night here or one night there where you don’t sleep. Don’t be hard on yourself. Be sure to persist because the greatest joy you can bring to yourself is having a good night’s sleep.

Now is the time to stop making excuses as to why you don’t sleep. You can condition yourself to get more sleep. Your human body wants that 7 to 8 hours sleep every night. Don’t think that you are the exception to the rule. That is ignorant thinking. Here are some simple strategies for better sleep: I like to call this the 3,2,1, rule:


  1. The science says you need to learn to power down for at least two hours before bed. This is so important. This means to disengage with your emails, text messages and all forms of work two hours before bed. If someone sends you an email late at night, it doesn’t need to be actioned immediately. Just because the sender is not asleep, doesn’t mean you need to be awake also. If they can’t figure it out during the day, it’s not your problem to deal with late at night! I get those emails and text messages too. I have disciplines myself not to look at anything before bed.
  1. One hour before disengage with all technology, so all screens off. That means no social media, no computer, no television. You can read a book instead. Technology changes our sleep cycles and prevents us from getting a more restorative sleep. This is because an activity such as being on your device will arouse your dopamine levels, which will fire you up later. It could be something that you see on social media or you may watch an action movie, it will excite a part of your brain that causes you to be stimulated. People laugh at me because I watch mindless tv at night. I watch tv shows, where I don’t have to think, feel, get scared, get angry, excited, no suspense, because I can’t sleep. My brain is usually already fired up and I need it to power down, so I watch all the mindless reality tv shows such as the real housewives because they put me to sleep. I can’t through a whole episode. It’s like taking a sleeping pill!!! So embarrassing, but it works for me, so who cares?

But there so many ways our addiction to technology disrupts our sleep. Hey but Don’t let your device ruin your life. So do not look at your screens before bed, and do not to have your phone next to you, buzzing away while you are sleeping. Try leaving the phone in another room. You don’t need those notifications and you don’t need the radiation from your wifi so close to your brain. Problem is that when many people get restless, and they wake up during the night, they have never trained themselves how to go back to sleep. In fact they are doing the opposite, and they are training themselves to consume and then ask themselves why they can’t sleep. That is because when they wake up, and can’t fall back to sleep, they start scrolling! That makes no sense!! So let’s get this straight, instead of trying to go back to sleep, let’s activate every part of your brain with dopamine and every other stimulating chemical so you are so wired up that you have absolutely no chance of falling back to sleep. This is totally irrational! But this is what people do!!! 

You need to be in control of your device and not the other way around, and you know that, but you might just be in denial.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  25:35

There are some other little things you can do that are so easy, but yet can make a world of difference to your sleep!!

Not only do some people turn off all the lights, they also turn off all the LED’s that is the red lights from tv’s etc. It actually helps to fully black out the room. 

Another tip is in regards to the temperature in the room!!!

Drop the temperature in the house down as temperature is also important to your sleep. According to the 50 years of sleep study, 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius unquestionably gives you the best sleep. Some people think that is cold – but that is why we have blankets and you can’t deny that you sleep better snuggled up under a blanket. I love sleeping under the covers. So if someone in the house complains that they don’t like the cold, just tell them that you don’t like them grumpy!!! Tell them to put on another blanket. You will survive precious!! 

Remember too that in order to sleep tight, caffeine and alcohol intakes can affect sleep also. I can’t have any caffeine after 1pm or I don’t sleep, whether it is tea or coffee. It just doesn’t work for me. The other thing is that if I over indulge with alcohol, I don’t get a full night’s sleep. I might go into a really deep sleep for the first four hours but will lay awake for the next four. 

Yet for many alcohol is the most common sleep aid—at least 20 percent of American adults rely on it to help them fall asleep. But the truth is, even moderate intake—is much more likely to interfere with your sleep than to assist it. This is because, in the body, alcohol disrupts circadian functioning, directly interfering with the ability of the master biological clock to synchronise itself so we don’t sleep.

So imagine trying to process alcohol, light, noise and the food you ate prior to bed. All those things are easily taken care of but you must train yourself to go to sleep! You must figure this out if you can’t sleep! You need to experiment to see what works best for you and this experiment needs to last at least  for a three week period. Don’t just stop eating meals before bed for one night and then say it didn’t work. Try it for a minimum of three weeks. You need to track your sleep on a scale and keep a pen and paper by the bed. If you wake in the night, write down how long you slept for and in the morning write down how deeply you felt you slept. So keep a daily log of the quantity and quality of your sleep so you can remember details that are helpful in addressing your insomnia. Remember that sleep patterns can change over a lifetime too. Just experiment but whatever you do, don’t give up and make it your goal to improve your quality of sleep. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  29:11

In conclusion we need to set the stage for restful sleep. Even consider setting an alarm for bedtime, not just waking time. No one does that. Whatever we do, we need to transform our appreciation of sleep, the very thing that safeguards our health and quality of life from so many aspects.

So imagine how much more productive you could be? How much more could you could create and achieve? How much more successful you could be? Plus, you will give yourself the gift of enjoying the journey along the way by allowing yourself a good night’s sleep. 

All the science and the research is telling us that 7-8 hours sleep per day is necessary and now is the time to take control of your sleep. What we need is nothing short of a sleep revolution: only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives. 

I am sure that you don’t want to suffer the long term consequences of sleep deprivation on your performance and happiness. Make the power of sleep work for you in rejuvenating your brain cells, regulating your weight, improving your concentration, strengthening your memory skills, reducing your stress and anxiety levels, improving your relationships, your productivity, creativity, and just be smarter. If you don’t want to do this for you, Do this for those students you teach, the community you serve, your family who has to put up with a grumpy versions of you. 

Remember that as singers, our whole body is the instrument, and you don’t want to be working with a tired, compromised instrument. As teachers, your students don’t want a teacher who is working with ineffinecies.