Professional singers, particularly those who perform night after night, endure a great deal of vocal abuse that occurs because of lack of good health habits: the hours are long and typically go late into the night. Many performers have young children, so they're falling into bed at 2 a.m. and rising at 6:30 or 7, with perhaps a quick nap in the afternoon before the children come home from school. They start their performing shift tired and do that day after day. They are sick multiple times every winter because their bodies simply don't have the stamina to resist a virus; secondary infections such as bronchitis are common.
This same pattern is also common in high school students, particularly those who are preparing for college studies in the performing arts: they are in school all day, have rehearsal for several hours each day after school, and typically carry heavy academic loads. It has been found that these high school arts students sleep an average of only 5 hours per night. They are sick an average of 4 times each winter.
Some Advice: "Treat yourself as though you are sick, even when you aren't sick."
1. SLEEP MORE!! If your schedule really doesn't permit 7-8 hours per night; find a way to take power naps during the day. Even 10 minutes curled up in a seat in a theatre is better than a cup of coffee.
2. HYDRATE. "Do NOT share water bottles!" Hydration does not occur by drinking large amounts of water right before a performance, it has to occur daily and constantly. It takes about 20 minutes for water to get into your system and be any help at all to your singing.
3. STEAM. At least once a day for 10 minutes in cold weather. 10 minutes is great; 5 minutes is good; 2 minutes is better than nothing. Steaming should be finished 30 minutes before singing, to allow vocal cords time to absorb the hydration. Steam helps in thinning secretions and lubricating the respiratory tract; then secretions are less likely to adhere to the vocal folds.
4. NASAL RINSE. If you are routinely dealing with sinus congestion, use a nasal rinse. Nasal rinses should be the same consistency as the body fluids. Use 2 teaspoons salt, one teaspoon baking soda, to one quart water. This is what patients use after sinus surgery to break up crusts and mucous in the nose. This is important with colds and in arid climates.
5. WASH YOUR HANDS! Your hands pick up bacteria. Everyone touches his/her face a lot. The germs get transferred to your mouth, eyes, and/or nose, and voila, you are sick! You should wash your hands an average of 10 times per day. Also, carry hand sanitizer around; if you can't wash your hands, use it!
6. IMMUNE SUPPORT. I like Emergen-C, which is a mega dose of vitamin C, and other vitamins. If I start to feel as if I'm coming down with something, I take one of these packets in a glass of water every 3 hours or so. I combine that with Xi-Cam, which is a Zinc bonding agent that prevents the virus from getting worse. I use the sublingual spray, but there are nasal sprays as well. Others: Kick Ass Immune Support by Wish Garden Herbs.; Immune complex; and AirBorne. This works: I stay very healthy.
7. EAT HEALTHY. Eat less sugar, and avoid processed foods. Stop eating Fast Food! I have recently been on the Bulletproof Diet, which limits toxins introduced into your system via foods, and I have to say I feel amazingly better. Inflammation is gone, and I'm singing better than ever! And I've lost a little weight!
8. EXERCISE. Stress contributes mightily to the breakdown of your immune system, and exercise is a wonderful way to reduce stress. Just 20/30 minutes a day can do wonders. On a busy day, I just take a walk around the block; it changes my environment and my thinking, refreshes me, and recharges me for the work ahead. AND reduces stress.
REMEMBER: When you are a singer, your body is your instrument. Think of a concert violinist. He takes immaculate care of his violin: he loosens the strings when he is not playing it, changes the strings frequently, keeps it in a velvet case, holds it on the airplane, etc. If singers would take such care of their voices, no one would ever miss a gig because of illness again!!!!
This article is largely plagiarized by me; it is based on an article by Dr. Curt Stock and his wife, Teri Stock, of IVTOM, and also based on my own experiences with singers.
How to Keep Your Voice and
Your Body Healthy