29 Feb 2012

Healthy Deep Sleep Naturally the Night Before a Performance

Lack of a good nights sleep can be one of the most detrimental things for the voice. No matter how well you take care of yourself and your vocal health, if you do not get enough sleep your voice will not respond the way you want it to. So then how do we get a good nights sleep when we are nervous, full of anxious energy, or just full of excitement for the show?

Taking prescription sleeping pills can seriously impact the health of your voice and body in negative ways. One of the most obvious and difficult issues to deal with is that we almost always wake up groggy and feeling “out of it.” This then leads us to have to drink excess caffeine or some other chemical substance to “wake” up enough even if it is in a slight way. In addition serious mental and physical side effects have been documented due to taking prescription sleeping pills that include: potential for addiction, digestive troubles, nausea, constipation, parasomnias, delirium, tremors and seizures.
Before you consider taking over the counter or chemical sleeping pills, maybe consider aiding your sleep with natural alternatives. You also may want to address why you are not getting the sleep you need. Feeling excited and fired up before the night of a performance is a very natural and normal thing most all professional artists go through. However if it is more than that you may need to address the issue. Below you may find some things that affect a good nights sleep:

  •  Drinking excess amounts of caffeine- 5 or more cups throughout the day or after 7:00 pm.
  •  Eating a large and difficult to digest meal after 7:00 pm or before you go to sleep.
  •  Eating refined sugar or candy before you go to sleep.
  •  Using your computer for more than a half hour- an hour before you go to sleep.
  •  Exercising vigorously before you go to sleep.

If these situations are not what you are experiencing and you simply need a little support for sleeping, here are a few of my favorite natural sleep aids:

Borage has been called the “Tea of Courage” because of the calming effects it has on the body and mind, allowing the user to be less nervous or anxious.  It is fantastic for calming the entire nervous system. If you have trouble going to sleep, a nice strong cup of Borage tea before going to bed can provide a very restful sleep with no grogginess or “feeling out of it”  in the morning. Be careful, Borage is very strong. Try small amounts at first to see how your body reacts. Borage may be purchased in bulk leaf form or in a liquid dropper. If you cannot find the bulk form locally, look online. When using fresh herb as a tea bring two cups of water to boil. Add one tablespoon of fresh herb. Let boil for three minutes. Take off heat and let sit covered for ten minutes. Strain and drink warm.

Not just for felines. Catnip is generally used as a mood elevator. It is helpful for tension and stress and aids in insomnia; it is very good for anxiety and nervousness. It affords a general feeling of well being. Catnip has also been used for centuries as an excellent over all pain reliever. Many people use catnip as a natural alternative to over-the-counter sleeping pills. It is very strong and can be used regularly without any feeling of waking up groggy or tired in the morning. Two or three capsules one half hour before bedtime will certainly afford a good nights sleep. A nice tea may also be used. Boil 2 cups of water and then allow the water to simmer down for a few minutes.  Never boil Catnip. It will render the herb useless. Add one tablespoon of herb (freshly cut if possible) or powder after the boiling water is removed from the heat source. Let steep covered for  twenty minutes, drain then drink. Catnip is not the most tasty herb when used as a tea. Some honey may be added to make it more palatable. If you do not  have fresh herb, you may also add half a dropper of liquid extract to a cup of warm water twenty minutes before bedtime.

Chamomile has a calming effect on the entire body. While not as powerful as some of the other herbs such as Valerian, Skullcap, or Lobelia, it is good for soothing the stomach and mild nervousness. It has been known to ease the pain of migraine headaches, as well.
Chamomile can be taken and used effectively in almost any form of tea, powder, capsule or crushed plant. Mostly known in the west for it’s soothing qualities, chamomile is actually a stimulant with anti-spasmodic properties. It is one of the most popular herbs taken as a tea to help soothe the stomach. However, it is also excellent for a number of other ailments including bronchitis, colds, allergies and headaches due to tension and stress. A strong cup twenty minutes before bedtime should do the trick.

Hops is well known herb used for insomnia, nerves, anxiousness, and even an over abundance of sexual energy. Hops is very effective at relaxing the entire nervous system. Try this  “old fashioned” remedy for insomnia. Take a small batch of fresh hops flowers and stuff your pillow before going to bed. Then have a cup of hops tea. This is said to give one a very restful sleep.
(Hops should not be used by people who take anti-depressants)

Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. Melatonin is your bodies natural way of helping to control your sleep and wake cycles. Small amounts, not really enough to effect sleep, can be found in foods such as meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Your body will slow down it’s melatonin production when light comes into the area you are sleeping in. So to take full advantage of your own melatonin production, sleep in a dark room making sure no light can slip in. Melatonin production also decreases with age. So depending on how old you are, you should check with your health care provider as to how much you should take. Melatonin can be very effective. If you decide to take it, monitor yourself very carefully for potential side effects that can arise due to a dosage level that is to high for your body. These can include sleepiness, lower body temperature, some small changes in blood pressure and dreams that seem a bit “out of the ordinary!”

Passion Flower
Passion flower has been used regularly for it’s calming, sedative, and pain relieving actions. It is also used by herbalists to treat anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, stress, headaches, seizures, hysteria and hyper activity in children. Passion flowers unique calming quality works so well because of how it affects the nervous system. It tones the sympathetic nerve, and improves blood circulation and the nutrition that the nerves receive. In the United States passion flower has been banned due to claims that the herbs abilities to effectively do what it claims have gone unproven. However, in Europe it is widely used on a regular basis for the above issues particularly as a mild sedative and non addictive tranquilizer. Passion flower can be a wonderfully safe and reliable remedy to performance anxiety and stage fright or insomnia due to nerves the night before performances. Add two tablespoons of passion flower to a pint of boiling water. Reduce heat and let sit  covered for fifteen minutes. Strain and drink. If you do not have fresh herb, you may also use liquid extract. Add half a dropper of liquid extract of passion flower into a warm cup of chamomile tea. If you need more then add as you wish. Try passion flower first in small doses to see how it effects you..
( Do not to take passion flower with MAO- inhibiting antidepressants or during pregnancy or lactation as it’s safety during these times has not yet been determined. )

Skullcap is one of the best and most powerful nerve tonics in the herbal kingdom, and can be compared with with catnip, valerian, and lobelia. When combined with other nerve tonic herbs, such as the above mentioned herbs it is very useful for all diseases of the nervous system. Since the early days in Western herbal medicine it has been used as a nerve tonic and sedative. When taken in the proper dosage levels it will produce a deep and long sleep with no side effects in the morning. It is also very good for headaches muscle spasm and irritability. Some herbalists have used skullcap for helping people with addictions to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. It may be used regularly on a long term basis safely for helping with regulation of the nervous system. A good introductory dose would be 10 drops of extract in two ounces of water before bedtime. (Obviously, do not use while driving. Some companies have mis-labeled their products as skullcap. Be careful to not use mislabeled skullcap products as they have been shown to cause liver damage. )

Valerian Root
Valerian or “Valeriana”  comes from the Latin valere, which means “to be in good health.” Along with St. John’s Root, Valerian is one of the first herbs prescribed by herbalists because it is one of the best nerve calming herbs. It has even been called “nature’s tranquilizer.”  It is a safe and effective sedative that can be very useful for hysteria, nervous tension, stress and insomnia. Some of these relief is believed to be due to the fact that valerian has the ability to slightly reduce blood pressure. Upon first use, try valerian alone in increasing doses to see how it works for you. However, in some people it can have the opposite effect acting as a stimulant. If this is the case, discontinue it’s use and try one of the other nerve calming herbs such as passion flower or hops. If you do choose to use Valerian, begin with one half dropper of extract in a cup of warm water. You may want to add a small amount of honey for taste. Valerian tea can also be used but may not be as concentrated as the extract dose. To make your own tea, use one teaspoon of dry herb in a cup of hot water. Boil for three minutes, let steep for 20 minutes covered, strain and drink. This will be a very strong cup of tea. Another plus for using valerian as a sleep aid is it does not interact negatively with alcohol. (Valerian should not be taken more than two weeks at a time. Consult with a qualified herbalist before using valerian.)

Check with your health care provider before taking or adding any new herbs or supplements to your diet. Make sure you know what you are allergic to or have reactions from. As always, I wish you the best on your quest for Superior Vocal Health!

About the Author:JAN ALAN SCHWARTZ

Voice Professional and Business Owner

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