Sleep affect your playing?

August 29, 2019, 10:26 PM · Hello
I've been having a ton of trouble recently with violin, and I feel like I'm at the level I was a year ago, which is super frustrating and stressful for me. I feel like the reason might be because of lack of sleep.

Do you find that lack of sleep affects your playing?
Right now I'm getting 5-6 hours of sleep, but if I didn't have an alarm I feel like I could easily sleep 11-12 hours

Replies (22)

August 30, 2019, 12:30 AM · To know if lack of sleep affects my playing, I'd need to know what it's like to sleep, lol! Last night I slept for 5 hours, but the night before I slept for 3. Yeah, I'd assume lack of sleep affects my playing.
August 30, 2019, 1:34 AM · Sleep definitely affects my playing, and I see it in my college students as well. The most demonstrative example can remember is when I was moving to another state after grad school. I had driven for two days and then played an evening rehearsal with a regional orchestra. For some reason, whichever Haydn Symphony it was felt really hard! After a real night’s sleep, however, the next morning’s rehearsal was the sight-readability I had expected. Check out the Somnology episode of the Podcast Ologies, and you’ll learn a ton about how sleep affects everything! Shiftwork is even classified as a carcinogen by the WHO!
August 30, 2019, 8:35 AM · Lack of sleep affects my concentration, my coordination, my tone, my vibrato, leaving little of value!

Folks say we can't "catch up" on sleep, and that "sleeping in" makes us fell awful.
I don't agree: waking up simply because we simply don't need to sleep more is a marvellous sensation.

Edited: August 30, 2019, 8:51 AM · That is not enough sleep. Sleeping well is vital to your health and performance in countless ways and should be taken seriously.

I read about this study where they found that people who slept 6 hours or less on average for two weeks reported feeling fine, but actually started to decline in terms of mood, energy and mental accuity relative to a control group, which slept 8 or 9 hours.

August 30, 2019, 9:17 AM · I don't remember at least 75% of college due to sleep deprivation (I was lucky if I logged 6 hours on a "good night" - typically I'd log 3-4. I am at my best with 7-8hrs.) It was terrible - and in the end created more work/time spent learning/processing than if I had just stopped and went to bed. When I went to grad school, I maintained my preferred 7-8hrs a night and got more done in less time than my classmates.

Sleep is essential not only to your health and well-being, but also to learning and integration of new concepts.

I'm with Adrian - I'd much rather "sleep in" and naturally wake up than force myself to get up to maintain the same schedule. If the body needs it, then the body needs it.

August 30, 2019, 11:17 AM · @adrian
"waking up simply because we simply don't need to sleep more is a marvellous sensation."
I agree. It has happened to me twice in my life, so that I can remember both occasions!
Edited: August 30, 2019, 1:54 PM · Let me tell you when sleep affects my playing. It's when I'm practicing the violin late at night and I'm working on some Dont or Kreutzer study and I fall asleep while actually playing the violin. I have learned to be very careful about this because once I almost dropped my violin. (Okay -- more than once.) Or if I fall asleep in an orchestra rehearsal then I might miss my entrance.
August 30, 2019, 3:08 PM · I once had a cellist colleague next to me who actually fell asleep during an orchestra rehearsal. She had a pretty good excuse - she was a hospital surgeon and had come to the rehearsal after 12+ hours in theater that day.

This was the same lady a few years later who, during a performance of Haydn's Creation, suddenly down put her cello and went to the assistance of an elderly gentleman, the guest of honor at the concert, who had collapsed on stage. She returned to her seat beside me a while later, as the performance continued, shaking her head slightly as she glanced at me. It turned out that the elderly gentleman had literally dropped dead on the spot and all the efforts of my colleague and paramedics failed to revive him.

btw, I regularly have 8-9 hours of sleep each night.

August 30, 2019, 3:30 PM · Aidian,

As many here have said: A lack of sleep will have an effect on everything you do, including the ability to play the violin.

Unfortunately, we live in a 24/7 world filled with all kinds of distractions and diversions along with employers who demand more than the "standard" 40 hours. Sleep deprivation is rampant. Some blame the lack of sleep on adolescent hormonal changes. A neighbor, who grew up where there was no electricity, noted that teenagers in her home country were like everyone else - to bed at sunset and up in the morning. Her children are like all the other American children, up till midnight and beyond with their electronic devices, dragging themselves out of bed each morning and getting up at the "crack of noon" on weekends and during the summer.

Now that I'm retired, I have a regular schedule that includes a full eight hours of sleep each night. Yeah, we pass on a bunch of stuff, record all the television shows that we watch and live a boring and healthy life and feel better than we ever did when we were trying to have it all on about four to five hours of sleep.

FWIW: I think I play my violin better now than I used to and perhaps that can be attributed to proper sleep.

August 30, 2019, 3:50 PM · Instead of simply assuming that what works for you is what is necessary for others, try opening your mind. I and many others have not slept the 'proper amount' for years, and yet we function totally normally.

How do we know? The occasions that we do sleep more do not improve our performance in all of life.

Edited: August 31, 2019, 12:50 AM · Generally nothing good comes out of sleep deprivation, and playing a string instrument is no exception. The additional time beleived to be gained by sleeping less is often wasted from a lack of concentration, mistakes and inefficiencies. While many claim to need only a few hours of sleep to function normally, I personally think that it is true only for a very small exceptional minority. We're all different of course and the amount of sleep required naturally vary between individuals so one cannot generalize but there is no shortage of studies on what should be considered a healthy amount of sleep and the effects of deprivation. If time is what you need, give up television and get some sleep. You will be more efficient and healthier for it; that is what I did 20 years ago, never regretted it.
Edited: August 31, 2019, 12:09 PM · What is worrying is the occasional report of someone in power at the top of the political tree (e.g. Prime Minister or President), or other organisation, who gets by on a regular 5 hours or less. A British PM (now deceased) was in that category whilst in office a few years ago. One can only hope that such people have top line advisers and abide by their advice (a faint hope, I must admit).
September 1, 2019, 6:27 AM · We are living in a similar time now.
September 1, 2019, 6:27 AM · We are living in a similar time now.
September 1, 2019, 7:19 AM · @Trevor
"A British PM (now deceased) was in that category whilst in office a few years ago. One can only hope that such people have top line advisers and abide by their advice (a faint hope, I must admit)."
Peter Walker? He was the cause of all our troubles!
September 1, 2019, 7:27 AM · Sleep has a huge impact on my playing. But the more I practice, and the more I'm in tune with little things, I find many things effect our playing. The obvious like coffee, an alcoholic beverage, but also time of day, aspirin, meals and diet, exercise, mood. I think it's important to be aware of the factors but not let it hinder your studies. As long as we are getting a reasonable amount of sleep and are taking care of our overall well being, we need to do be able to be flexible enough to work around the reality of life. A lot of times, little and simple changes are easier to moderate.

When progress gets stagnant, its usually not about time on the instrument but rather off. Thinking through things, studying, and trying different approaches, and reorganizing my practice routine. Many times it's not about progress but creating flexibility. When we hit a wall, sometimes we have to take a step so we can see it clearly and go around it. So even when life gets crazy, we can't get enough sleep, or enough practice time, thoughtful practice can keep us flexible to what life throws at us.

September 1, 2019, 10:06 PM · If you sleep 7-8 hours consistently (not just once in a blue moon) you will probably notice a difference in quality of life. Those who claim to function well on 5 hours have probably just developed coping strategies to do so.
September 1, 2019, 10:06 PM · If you sleep 7-8 hours consistently (not just once in a blue moon) you will probably notice a difference in quality of life. Those who claim to function well on 5 hours have probably just developed coping strategies to do so.
September 3, 2019, 1:17 PM · If I could change one bad habit of mine as a teenager, it would be how poorly I slept. Sleep is very important for being able to learn and consolidate memory. You would be a fool to not prioritize it.
September 3, 2019, 3:51 PM · Michael, et al.,

"How do we know?" Because sleep has been studied. While individuals vary a bit the generalization that adult humans require an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep is true.

Rotating shift workers, Resident and Intern medical students, people in various jobs that require long hours and short sleep all score significantly lower on cognitive testing that those who regularly get the recommended 7-8 hours.

FWIW: There was a time when I burned the midnight-oil and thought I was just fine on about 3-4 hours a night. Over time the deficit, while allowing me to do a lot of things I thought of as important, my job performance continued to slip and I lost my employment. I won't call it a wake-up-call, it was more a go-to-bed call.

We humans think we can do it all 24/7 and sleep is just a luxury we don't really need. Employers often drive their people long and hard and everyone suffers. Believe what you want but measure your performance.

September 6, 2019, 8:41 AM · If taken to the other extreme, sleep can help you fit in with the viola section.


September 6, 2019, 11:03 AM · This will be an unscientific comment. Sleep is part of the learning process. To keep the long-term memory banks uncluttered, the "night manager" in the brain wants to sort through and discard the days' learned skills and that concerto spot you thought you memorized, so you have to repeat the process the next day. The brain needs to transfer the deliberate motions coming from the front to the back-brain automatic circuits in the cerebelum.

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