My students will often hear me mention the importance of drinking enough water. Here's a breakdown of why it is so important to stay hydrated for your vocal health and sound, and how to ensure you're drinking enough!
Helps Prevents Vocal Damage
Our vocal folds vibrate A LOT when we sing - anywhere from 100-200 times a second! If we are not sufficiently hydrated, the membrane around our vocal folds thickens and can become sticky and phlegmy. You can usually hear and feel when your voice is phlegmy; while this can feel unpleasant and have a negative impact on your sound, it is also a sign of reduced protection from vibratory stress on your vocal folds. Singing regularly in these vocal conditions can lead to serious vocal problems, such as nodules (hard growths on your vocal folds) which can lead to a reduced range, negative changes of vocal tone and even total voice loss. If you ensure your voice is hydrated, you significantly reduce the risk of developing vocal problems in conjunction with correct singing technique.
Scary bit out of the way….!
Keeps Your Voice Pliable
Hydration is key to ensuring your voice is pliable and flexible. Think of your voice like any other muscle in your body; if you went to a spin class and didn’t take any water with you, or drink anything beforehand, you would feel tired, thirsty and less able to give it your all. The same principals apply to your voice; the voice is a product of how well you care for and look after it, so give it what it needs and keep drinking!
Remember, if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated; try to avoid getting to that point to ensure you are keeping your water levels topped up sufficiently.
Stay Hydrated All Year Round
It is not sufficient to have a big glass of water before a lesson or performance and expect that glass to hydrate you effectively. When we drink water, it has to hydrate our whole body (which is made up of up to 60% water!), and will firstly go to hydrate our vital organs to make sure that we stay alive. Your larynx, the organ in your throat that contains your vocal cords, is not a 'vital organ', and therefore will not be getting that glass of water delivered directly to it. It can take a really long time for that glass of water to reach your vocal folds, if ever! By drinking enough water consistently throughout the day, week, month and year, you can rest assured that your vocal muscles will be receiving the hydration they need.
If you would like a clearer idea of what I mean by terms like 'vocal folds' and 'larynx', watch this short video that shows actual vocal cords in action while singing!
Check Your Diet, Habits & Environment
There are other factors that can play a significant role in how hydrated we are and how effectively the water we drink will hydrate us. Incorporating foods high in water (cucumber, watermelon, spinach, strawberries... there's loads!) regularly in your diet can easily up your daily water intake. Putting these foods into your water bottle can also switch up your water taste and get the additional, nutritional benefits too! (Maybe not spinach water though... eww). Foods high in salt will dehydrate you, as will alcoholic and caffeinated drinks. Consider switching one of your daily coffees for a herbal tea or infused water. Green tea has a surprisingly high caffeine content, so drink this sparingly.
Other factors such as smoking, certain medications (such as antihistamines for those fellow hay fever sufferers!) and air-conditioned environments can have a dehydrating impact on the voice. Be aware of your surroundings, habits and daily intakes if you want to ensure that you are giving your voice the best chance possible at staying healthy and hydrated!
How Much Should I Drink?
NHS Guidelines recommend 6-8 glasses of water a day, which is about 1.2 litres. I aim to get at least two litres of water each day, which is the amount that I have found works best for me. I keep track of this through carrying around a 500ml Chilly's Bottle with me at all times, and filling it up at least four times a day. These are great as they are reusable, come in loads of pretty colours and keep your water cold for up to 24 hours, even outside!
It is possible to drink too much water, so be aware that you do not drink significantly above the recommended daily guidelines. Your daily water intake requirements will vary depending on your age, activity level, environment and diet, so take some time to figure out what amount per day works best for you.
Drinking water is hugely beneficial for your overall bodily health, skin and wellbeing. Have a go of monitoring your water intake for a fortnight and see the difference for yourself!
If you would like any more information, please get in touch.