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#3129302 06/19/21 10:56 AM
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Anyone know of accomplished pianists who were insomniacs? Any insomniac pianists here? How does it affect your playing, coordination, learning speed, etc.? How do you cope?

Last edited by Emery Wang; 06/19/21 10:56 AM.

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I suffered insomnia for the second time in my life last Dec/Jan. I got to practice in the dead of night, usually technical stuff such as scales, chords, hanon, etc. In the day I couldn't concentrate well enough to play or practice meaningfully.

I started an online CBT program, quite sceptically at the outset, but it worked and I started sleeping and staying asleep after just a couple of weeks or so.

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I have huge amount of anxiety in the morning's so I'm working at night's I'm more productive at night's and my perception is clear

Last edited by Batuhan; 06/19/21 02:15 PM.



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Originally Posted by spanishbuddha
I suffered insomnia for the second time in my life last Dec/Jan. I got to practice in the dead of night, usually technical stuff such as scales, chords, hanon, etc. In the day I couldn't concentrate well enough to play or practice meaningfully.

I started an online CBT program, quite sceptically at the outset, but it worked and I started sleeping and staying asleep after just a couple of weeks or so.

Interesting. I've tried over the counter CBD gummies and they didn't do much. Did your online program provide more specifically targeted CBD dosing?


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I have some pretty severe insomnia issues on and off. It's ... NOT great for practicing. I can't imagine how someone with chronic insomnia issues manages to do anything at all well, much less play piano. Get some sleep, everyone!


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I do "burn the midnight oil" occasionally. When we get older, some of us suffer from insomnia. Practicing piano late at night isn't exactly unproductive. There are jobs that require people to work at night so they flip their time and sleep during the day.

I travel out of town regularly to spend with the other half of the family. Being in a different time zone, I'd practice music roughly the same time as back home. While my hours of sleep has changed, my practice time stays roughly the same.

I know a retired man who has health issues + prescription drug addiction. It affected him to the point that he'd practice music at odd times when his energy level is sufficient. His practice time can by late at night or whenever during the day. I would commit the same time each day usually between 7-9 in the evening according to the time at home. When I'm learning a new piece, I may add an hour extra to work on unfamiliar phrases. Due to insomnia, my hours of sleep may shift but my practice time would stay about the same whether I am waking up or ready to go to bed. Practicing into the wee hours of the night do happen occasionally although not frequently.

The ideal situation is to practice when my energy level is high (day or night) especially reading through a new piece. There are times I'd be half asleep and still manage to play a piece I worked on for a few weeks already just relying on muscle memory.

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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
Originally Posted by spanishbuddha
I started an online CBT program, quite sceptically at the outset, but it worked and I started sleeping and staying asleep after just a couple of weeks or so.

Interesting. I've tried over the counter CBD gummies and they didn't do much. Did your online program provide more specifically targeted CBD dosing?

It’s perhaps not great form jumping in for Spanishbuddha, but I suspect he/she was referring to CBT - cognitive behavioral therapy - and not cbd.

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Originally Posted by Sgisela
It’s perhaps not great form jumping in for Spanishbuddha, but I suspect he/she was referring to CBT - cognitive behavioral therapy - and not cbd.

Ah, yes that would be different! blush See what lack of sleep does to you!

Last edited by Emery Wang; 06/19/21 10:37 PM.

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Apparently Van Cliburn used to practice in the dark late night. I read that someplace I think.

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That's one good reason for owning a clavichord. Mozart had one for working late into the night.

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I don’t call myself an insomniac because I don’t want that label (no matter how much it fits) but I do suffer recurring bouts of insomnia that often last many weeks. (As an aside, I have tried just about every approach under the sun…or the moon, rather…with regards to my sleep issues, and while many things help, it seems there is no “cure.”). Lately I have the kind of insomnia where I wake around 3-4 AM and cannot get back to sleep. I’ve tried practicing at this time but I find it too stimulating, since the hope is to eventually get tired enough to fall back asleep. However I find it is a wonderful time for studying scores and doing mental rehearsal.

If I haven’t slept well, I try to put my practice as early in the day as possible. I’m usually ok for the first few hours of the day but in the latter part, depending on how sleep deprived I am, practice (or anything requiring mental focus) is a lost cause. If I’m going through a particularly bad spell it really impacts the things you mention (focus, learning speed, etc.). Reading sheet music may become next to impossible (it’s like I can’t resolve the notes into any kind of meaning) so I might only work on pieces I already know well. I just do what I can to get through. After a period of insomnia, I’ll usually have a longer period where I sleep well and deeply and can make good progress with piano.


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I am not an accomplished pianist, but I do have my bouts of insomnia. It is quite lovely to get up from the tossing and turning in the middle of the night, and play some piano. I have a VPC1, so I can play with headphones. I usually play/practise for about an hour, until I feel really sleepy. Back in my bed, there is a total mental shift compared to before the playing. The restlessness has disappeared, I can fall asleep.
The only thing that can be a problem during the winter is temperature. If I don't put on some warm clothes, slowly I get cold. Going back into the cold bed, it is hard to get warm again, which makes it harder to fall asleep again. So sometimes I put a warm water bottle in my bed before playing the piano.


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Early in my career (obviously nothing to do with music), I was chronically sleep-deprived: in fact, for the best part of the first few years, my life consisted of going about my stressful job in a zombie-like half-asleep state, and then partially catching up on sleep on nights off. That was the usual rite of passage for most of us until a couple of decades ago. The upshot of it was that most of us learnt to survive on very little sleep: mine fell from my usual 8-9 hours to 4 hours (or less) on average.

But, when we did get to sleep, we slept very well (because we knew we could be 'bleeped' within five minutes) - and even now, I can pretty much fall asleep within a minute of two of putting my head on the pillow, though I haven't had to 'grab sleep whenever I get the opportunity' for several decades now. Even a big mug of caffeine prior to sleep doesn't stop me nodding off when I want to, and I sleep soundly until it's time to wake up (though caffeine still works as a performance-enhancing drug for my sporting activities), and I usually sleep around six hours a night these days, though I can stay asleep for nine hours if I feel like it.

It's well-known that insomnia has become a bigger problem in many developed nations recently, due in no small part to more and more people suffering from sleep apnoea (I won't mention the main cause of that here) - usually without knowing it - and the prevalence of social media and the "blue light" from mobile devices. How often have people gone on FB etc or played computer games while lying in bed, and then cannot get to sleep afterwards? And their bedrooms are full of distractions and high-tech gadgets, including a huge smart TV, Miss Alexia (whoever she is), pets.....

Anyway, I'll get off my pulpit, and leave it to the sleep experts to give advice on sleep hygiene - which, BTW, really does work, so if you didn't know about it before (or were dubious), should definitely implement it........even if it's just for the sake of learning Islamey while feeling fresh, strong, healthy and awake wink :

https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Anyway, I'll get off my pulpit, and leave it to the sleep experts to give advice on sleep hygiene - which, BTW, really does work,
Sleep medications scare the daylights out of me. There are plenty of articles about people addicted to them. I have no idea how that works...and don't want to know.

We lost power for several days. We found that time incredible relaxing and slept great.

Things that help me for insomnia: no food for hours before bed, good diet with minimal sugar, minimal caffeine (and none after noon), morning exercise, no screen time in the evening (reading paper books is great), same sleep schedule daily, no napping (in southern Europe some folklore recommends a short nap under 45 minutes after lunch in the summer holidays), mindfulness exercises to quiet the brain...

For me, this is a question of self-disclipline. But I know this can be medical issues for others.

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If you haven't already, you may want to try sleeping pills based on antihistamines. They work and are not addictive. No prescription necessary. I use these every now and then, e.g. when I am to excited to sleep or when I have a long car drive the next day (German):
https://www.docmorris.de/schlafsterne-tabletten/02026021
These seem similar in the USA:
https://www.amazon.com/Kirkland-Signature-Doxylamine-Succinate-Tablets/dp/B0045XGE9E

Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night after 4 hours of sleep and I m wide awake, I take half a pill and I can sleep for another 4 hours.

Last edited by ErfurtBob; 06/20/21 06:20 PM.
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Haven’t found the need for medication yet. Try to work on new pieces when my energy level is up. Not going to fix practice schedule as long as it’s an hour a day.

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Any medication that works, also has side effects. The ones for doxylamine are: drowsiness, dizziness, headache, constipation, stomach upset, blurred vision, decreased coordination, or dry mouth/nose/throat.

Having said that, I occasionally take sleep meds, in order to break a cycle of bad nights. Two-three nights in a row, then try to sleep without them again. As if I need to remind my body to sleep during the night. Usually it works quite well this way.


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Two glasses of wine help much better and are (arguably) beneficial for your health.


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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
That's one good reason for owning a clavichord.
Is Clavichord better than a digital piano for maintaining your piano technique quietly?


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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Two glasses of wine help much better and are (arguably) beneficial for your health.

I would very much like it for that to be true, but even though wine helps me fall asleep quickly, it also makes me wake up at the very early hours in the morning... So, no wine as sleeping medication for me.


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