Canterbury Christ Church University’s Skylark choir is comprised entirely of Parkinson’s patients, and many within the group credit it for lessening symptoms of the neurological disease such as a diminished ability to move and a weakened voice. Michael Rawson, who’s been a choir member for about 4 months, says, “We all get in this room and sing our hearts out, laugh and joke and really enjoy ourselves… and in the end, my voice is much stronger, much healthier.” Others say being in the group has made them feel less withdrawn, boosted their confidence, and helped them make new friends, with one adding, “It’s nice to have something to be happy about.”
Chreanne Montgomery-Smith, founded Singing for the Brain, three years ago, says that "People who have constant memory problems are so undermined by this, but somehow the memory for singing is preserved for ever in the brain and it gives people a lift when they can remember things".
Chreanne started singing with groups when she was working in a residential home and was so amazed by the positive effect on people with dementia that she decided to include this when she went to work for the Alzheimer's Society West Berkshire branch.
Singing tutor Liz McNaughton, a freelance voice coach with Singing for the Brain, explained "It would seem, and there is a lot of research about this, that the music has the ability to access words. It is so powerful that people who have lost their ability to speak can access songs and words from the melody." She said singing sessions appeared to have positive effects on participants' cognitive powers, their physical ability and their emotions
Words and music, such natural partners that it seems obvious they go together. Now science is confirming that those abilities are linked in the brain, a finding that might even lead to better stroke treatments.
Studies have found overlap in the brain's processing of language and instrumental music, and new research suggests that intensive musical therapy may help improve speech in stroke patients, according to researchers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
People who have suffered a severe stroke on the left side of the brain and cannot speak can sometimes learn to communicate through singing, according to Gottfried Schlaug, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.
According to Patricia Preston-Roberts, a board-certified music therapist in New York City, studies have linked singing with a lower heart rate, decreased blood pressure and reduced stress. “When I’m singing, I forget my pain,” says Preston-Roberts, who has multiple sclerosis. “It relaxes me and temporarily gets me back to who I am without the pain
Joke Bradt, PhD, a music therapist and assistant director of the Arts and Quality of Life Research Centre at Philadelphia’s Temple University, has researched the effects of music on chronic pain management. “Music helps you escape from your body in the moment, and this encourages relaxation and diminishes pain,” she explains. Other benefits of singing include stronger abdominal and back muscles from sitting and standing straighter, as well as stimulated circulation and sharpened mental alertness from the aerobic effect of drawing more oxygen into your body.
Every person and every establishment on the planet can gain from the benefits of singing, whether the people concerned think they can sing or not. Singing increases the amount of oxygen you take into the body as you take deep breaths, this produces a feeling of alertness as more oxygen gets to the brain. As you sing, you articulate and use facial expressions, so you improve muscle tone in the face, throat, neck and jaw, thereby promoting a youthful appearance. Singing in a choir adds the element of socialisation, the possibility of making new friends and feeling part of a group.
In addition to a general feeling of wellbeing singing has health benefits for many medical conditionsboth physical and mental and is widely recognised as being beneficial by the medical world.
Singing helps to calm negative mental 'chatter' - the distracting unhelpful thoughts we can all have at times - because you are focused on the job of singing, and this stops us dwelling on life's issues and problems.
Singing is utterly absorbing and radically different from usual work-related tasks. Like physical exercise, singing requires a level of focus and bodily activity that shifts our minds away from our usual patterns of thinking, even away from quite pressurized and stressful attitudes.
Singing is without doubt a wonderful stress management aid.
Singing improves your ability to listen. Very many of us think that we listen, but actually we don't truly listen, because we are too busy thinking about our responses. The process of learning to sing and singing, especially with others, dramatically increases attentive listening, and generally all of our levels of listening too.
When you sing (or play any wind instrument), you’re spending much more time exhaling than inhaling—almost a 50 to 1 ratio sometimes. That means that the parasympathetic nervous system is being constantly stimulated, leading to a relaxed state. Yes, you may be exerting yourself somewhat, but you’re more relaxed. This may be the reason why many people like to sing—it makes us feel good.
So can singing help your sleep apnoea? It probably won’t cure sleep apnoea, but by keeping you more relaxed, you may feel less stressed or tired.
When Alise Ojay, a singing instructor at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, listened to a concerned friend describe his snoring, Ojay wondered if the singing exercises she regularly performed would help strengthen the lax muscles in her friend’s throat. They did. In¬trigued, Ojay began working with medical professionals at the Univer¬sity of Exeter in 1999 to conduct a pilot study. The information she gained ultimately led to the development of a singing programme to help snoring. The singing is “simple and repetitive,” using sounds such as “ung-gah.” Following her singing program can end mild-to-moderate snoring and reduce the snoring caused by sleep apnoea, according to the results of Ojay’s early trials. The Singing for Snorers program is now being used in a large, controlled clinical trial at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.