Are violinists light sleepers, or is it just me?

November 4, 2006 at 04:31 PM · The upstairs neighbor's dog snoring, the refrigerator cutting on or off, a mouse running across the floor... Everything wakes me up! I cannot sleep in hotels at all. I cannot sleep in tents. I can't usually sleep at friends houses because every new sound has me awake.

It's not just that, either. I can't concentrate on anything at the coffee shop because I hear every conversation in the room, every song on the radio, every child that whines, every quarter that drops, everything. I can't tune anything out. It's like that with just about everything, and I was wondering if anyone else suffers from the same problem.

But I'm really good at identifying bird songs and car problems.

Replies (25)

November 4, 2006 at 05:19 PM · One can argue the reverse. Are light sleepers predisposed to becoming violinists? : )

And, for the record, I might have you beat on the over-sensitivity scale. Here's one for you - sometimes when I lie down at night, the sound of my hair against the pillowcase plus the slight movement a breathing body makes, is enough to distract/annoy me into shifting, time and time again. Grrr. Good thing for sleep deprivation - nature's sleeping pill.

I think it's an artist thing, to be honest. I think we tune up all of our sensitivity receptors to take in as much muse/divinity/other-worldliness as possible, and then we're tossed out into the real world w/o the ability to turn all this equipment off. The world is so jarring. So noisy. So... sensory.

Glad to hear I'm not the only one who suffers from this.

November 4, 2006 at 05:29 PM · I flew jets for 35 years, at least you can hear stuff. LOL.

November 4, 2006 at 06:07 PM · My mom (non-musician) is an extremely light sleeper, seems rather like you, Emily. I don't seem to have a problem. I'm not a heavy sleeper, but not a super-light one either.

November 4, 2006 at 06:24 PM · In our family, who tend to be "musical" with a few "musicians" mostly on our mother's side, the women are generally light sleepers. My beagle and my cat snore, and my husband wears a CPAP machine. I run the ceiling fan on low to try to even out the machine noise as it cycles, and I pop a soft earplug in my left ear, (since I sleep most of the time on my right side.) Sigh... Sue

November 4, 2006 at 06:53 PM · White noise sounds like a good idea, but sometimes it's not. The last camping trip where I slept outside, we found a nice spot right next to the Upper Russian Lake. You'd think that the sound of the water all night would be soothing, but no. The spawning salmon there made such a ruckus that I found it impossible to sleep. I dozed off finally and awoke to the sound of sniffing, as a young black bear inspected our tent.

Sometimes I don't feel comfortable drowning out the sounds, either.

November 4, 2006 at 07:43 PM · Hi Emily,

I am EXACTLY the same. I need absolute quiet in order to fall asleep, unless I am exhausted. Also, when I study or read it's the same. I can't concentrate unless it's really quiet, or I'll focus on the sounds. It's an interesting study to see why this happens to us, hmmm??


November 4, 2006 at 09:02 PM · I've been totally addicted to earplugs since age 18! Can't get to sleep with any noise, and the slightest thing seems to wake me up (though I've been told that I've slept through quite noisy things, too).

November 4, 2006 at 11:00 PM · im not particulary heavy or light....whoever said their mum was a light sleeper, mine's like that too, i've head its a motherly thing, that they are subconsciously listening for a crying baby...

November 5, 2006 at 12:54 AM · My husband is like you describe. He's extremely sensitive to noise and has to wear earplugs to sleep. He's sensitive to a lot of things; he also had to take the tags out of all his clothing when he was a kid. He's not a musician.

I, on the other hand, can sleep through anything. I can sleep almost anywhere at any time. I'm a little less sleep-deprived now than I have been in the past, so it's not quite that bad anymore. But it used to be that it wasn't really worth it to me to go to any event where you had to sit quietly in a darkened or even semi-darkened room for any length of time, or I would fall asleep. I haven't seen that many live concerts in my life because it's just hard for me to concentrate in that kind of environment or sit still that long without *doing* something. I'd much rather be playing the music myself.

November 5, 2006 at 01:13 AM · I find a bit of alcohol to solve any problems with lightness of sleep.

November 5, 2006 at 02:45 AM · >But it used to be that it wasn't really worth it to me to go to any event where you had to sit quietly in a darkened or even semi-darkened room for any length of time, or I would fall asleep.

Ha ha, I've had this too! Used to participate in a meditation group, but finally I gave up because I couldn't stay awake. The symphony doesn't seem to be as challenging this year, but last year I had two events where I was doing everything in my power to stay awake - it was awful. Guess I know to juice up with caffeine ahead of time now. (Gee... guess that explains the over-sensitivity after the event...)

November 5, 2006 at 04:24 AM · I slept through a fire alarm once...

November 5, 2006 at 06:26 AM · Just give me a nice boring textbook to read and I can fall asleep no matter how loud it is. But if I'm restless, it can be deathly quiet and I won't fall asleep for a couple hours.

November 5, 2006 at 06:28 AM · I just hate to admit it, but whenever I'm off the coffee I sleep like a log. But I love coffee so I'm an insomniac!

I do find that I notice every bit of music playing anywhere, no matter how deeply in the background it may be.

November 5, 2006 at 06:39 AM · There are a couple of issues here. One is the ability to hear sounds, and another is the ability to filter them out. I have serious trouble falling asleep, but, once I'm asleep, nothing -- including loud alarm clocks -- wakes me. When a family member or friend tries to wake me by talking to me, I simply converse with them quite intelligibly in my sleep without ever waking up. Later, when I do wake up, I don't remember the incident at all. Nobody believes me. I hear music, even when it's playing faintly in a noisy room or when I'm talking to someone, and I notice things like key modulations. My power of concentration is intense. Teachers have commented on it since I was in grade school. When I focus on a lecture, I don't notice any background noise at all. I practice yoga, and I'm as good as deaf to noises while I'm in a trance-like state. My yoga teacher often leaves the room to ask people in the gym, which is in the next room, to quiet down, but I never hear their noise.

November 5, 2006 at 08:58 AM · I sleep like the dead. Missed the last California earthquake because I was in dreamland. :P

November 5, 2006 at 09:25 AM · Well, it looks like I'm not alone, but it also seems that not all violinists are predisposed to this trait. Now I'm wondering if violinists make up a higher percentage of light sleepers than the rest of the public. Looks like it's hard to say after reading this discussion thread.

I remember when I was younger that I would obsess about my own breathing, and every time I was about to doze off I'd suddenly panic about forgetting to breathe once I fell asleep. It was silly, but I thought I'd stop breathing if I fell asleep.

I can't sleep if I've eaten too much, or if I'm hungry, or if my heart rate is too fast or too slow. Or if the sheets aren't straightened. Or if my feet get too hot. I hardly slept a wink when I was in Cambodia once. But there were many reasons for that.

I used to worry about getting enough sleep. This only made insomnia worse. Once I quit bothering to make an effort, I found that I go to sleep just as soon as I collapse into bed. The trick is to go along as though you don't need sleep for as long as possible, so that it becomes a desperate physical need instead of a duty. 4-6 hours a night will do just fine. And you don't die if you miss a night or two, either.

Now you all know why I spend so much time at this website.

November 5, 2006 at 09:53 AM · Wow, you guys have time to sleep?

November 5, 2006 at 11:23 AM · I am usually a really deep sleeper (once slept through someone trying to break into my hotel room which is worrying) but have recently had problems sleeping after a mouse moved into my flat. My hearing has suddenly improved by at least 10dB.

The biggest problem is waking up, especially now in the dark mornings. A recent gift of a CD alarm clock seemed like a brilliant idea, but it only makes matters worse, as I drift off when the gorgeous Turkish clarinet starts up, and wake up at the good (interesting) bits, so I'm listening to the music and sleeping at the same time.

Sorry Emily, if we are making you jealous. Your attitude of taking whatever sleep you can get is the best. Just looking at it as resting rather than sleeping prevents worrying about the whole business.

November 5, 2006 at 02:01 PM · When I'm in top running shape, I sleep like a baby every night. Unless I'm also really working hard at the violin. Then, I toss and turn because my brain keeps practicing my music all night--working out those shifts, listening to that spiccato etc.. I know, crazy. I used to go nuts trying to figure out how to turn my brain off, but now I just figure it's practicing I can get done without bothering anyone.

November 5, 2006 at 04:23 PM · One thing that positively drives me nuts is a clock. You know the one's that go "tick tick". Those have to be removed before I am able to sleep. I used to be a very light sleeper and have trouble concentrating when things were going on or when noises occured but after a couple Alexander Technique classes I've been able to sleep a lot better on a whole!

November 5, 2006 at 08:37 PM · Kimberlee, I'm jealous of your running. I developed a knee ache and I don't run currently. It's also frigid outside, and I prefer to stay in.

I am thankful for the short daylight hours right now. Slept till after 11:00 this morning, and the sun's just coming up!

November 6, 2006 at 05:51 PM · Emily, I'm sure you shred it up plenty when your knee isn't bugging you and when it's not 40 below outside. Most runners have knee issues at one time or another--just not as bad as the basketball players :D.

I know what you mean about being jealous. I can never run all the way through my pregnancies, so I just look out the window at the people who are running and seethe with envy.

Running, for me, always means getting in shape and staying in shape for a while and then dropping off for one reason or another and then getting back in the game again. Kind-of like violin!

If we ever meet in person, we'll have to make sure to do a nice trail run together followed by happy violining.

November 7, 2006 at 12:56 AM · I'm a new convert to the recumbent bike. It takes up like half our living room, but a half-hour a day on that thing does wonders, without a lot of risk of injury.

November 7, 2006 at 03:53 AM · Idaho? Kimberlee, you've gotta move. I never make it to Idaho. Been there once.

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