Here’s an article that caught my eye earlier this week, discussing the increasing role sleep is playing in sports scientists’ recommendations for the preparation and training of footballers:
On the radio the other night an ex-footballer was recalling how his former teammate Mark Viduka was very often late for morning training before an important match, having overslept, but would then go on to produce an outstanding performance. As my wife pointed out, perhaps this was a result of being better rested than his teammates and opponents.
Sleep undoubtedly plays a crucial yet often underappreciated role in singers’ preparation too – being physically rested is of huge benefit to vocal quality, as well as aiding brain function and memory, amongst other things. Consider that peformances and evening rehearsals typically finish post-10pm, and most singers would prefer not to eat heavily before singing but also not to sleep for a few hours after eating. Then add that morning rehearsals typically start around 10am, that a lot of current advice says you should start hydrating 4 hours before you sing after sleeping, and that you’d need a good half-hour warm-up before rehearsal, and you begin to see why it’s not always that easy to fit in a decent night’s sleep – and why opening night at the end of a long rehearsal period may not always be the best time to see an opera if you’re keen to hear the singers at their peak.
The science of sleep, and the importance of its quantity and quality to human abilities, is a relatively under-explored area of knowledge – reports of the latest developments are definitely something worth keeping an eye on.