After over 15 years in the music industry, I have heard my fair share of “sleep-shaming.” That’s when you’re at an event or meeting and mention how tired you are or how little sleep you’ve gotten, to which someone says, “Oh, please! I wish I got that much, I’m only on [insert 1 less number of hours of sleep here]!” I’m sure many of you have heard sleep-shaming, or have even been the sleep-shamer yourself. If you are ever in that situation, I challenge you to say, “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you’re able to get more sleep tonight.”
The issue with sleep-shaming is that it assumes sleep deprivation somehow proves you want “it” more, whatever “it” is. In reality, though, if you truly want it more, you would advocate for more sleep; you would be bragging instead about all the Z’s you caught last night.
I’ve learned the hard way that pulling all-nighters and living a busy, rather than productive, lifestyle does nothing but put you on the fast track to Burnoutsville. After understanding the ways to work smarter, not harder, I became a mindset coach for music professionals. In addition to time blocking, meditating, and exercising, I emphasize sleep as foundational for success. A main priority in my coaching, therefore, is demonstrating how slowing down is key to building a sustainable career in music.
Think of the Oxygen Mask Principle (the directive they give you on every flight you’re on): when the oxygen masks come down, make sure you place yours on first before assisting anyone else. What if those of us in the music world applied that basic principle to our hectic lives within this competitive industry? Below are three ways you can make sure you’re taken care of in order to be your best for others, and do your best in your career:
#1: Set aside 6-8 hours for sleep
Every day we experience new things, we meet new people, and we have 101 ideas we would like to act on at some point. Our minds simply need to rest in order to digest it all.
6-8 hours of sleep every night allows not only our bodies to regenerate cells, break down nutrients, and repair damages, but also our minds to process information and focus more acutely when we’re awake.
Proper sleep is about these significant health benefits as it is about our creativity and even our immediate safety. Many studies have shown that working on little-to-no sleep has similar effects to working while intoxicated.
This study from the New Zealand Occupational & Environmental Health Research Center found that, “after 17–19 hours without sleep… performance on some tests was equivalent or worse than that at a BAC of 0.05%. Response speeds were up to 50% slower for some tests and accuracy measures were significantly poorer than at this level of alcohol. After longer periods without sleep, performance reached levels equivalent to…BAC of 0.1%.”
The BAC legal limit in most states is .08%. So if you’ve ever been in the studio all night and then driven home you are literally putting yourself and anyone else on the road in danger. If you pull an all-nighter and then perform on stage that night, you may as well be performing drunk.
Sleep is necessary for surviving life on the road, for carrying out tasks that matter to the growth of your career, and for maximizing the creativity and focus that fuel your success.
#2: Turn off devices before bed or keep them in a separate room
It’s far too common to be on your computer or tablet before and throughout bedtime. It’s also common to leave the TV on or keep your phone by your bed as your alarm clock. As music professionals in particular, there is a pressure to work until the point of passing out and to keep these devices readily available at all times.
Working in this way is problematic firstly in that it promotes sloppy output that likely will need to be redone. The bigger picture of these electronic habits is that the blue light emitted by your devices greatly disrupts one’s sleep rhythm and internal clock.
The National Sleep Foundation strongly urges people to shut off all devices before turning in for the night. They explain, “Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed… suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.”
Many of us in this industry feel like insomniacs. While it may be a hard habit to break, shutting off your devices is better for you and your work in the long run.
If you’re someone, like me, who “needs” the TV on or likes to read from a tablet before bed, remember to fix your settings in order to reduce the blue light that is emitted (many devices now have a “night time” setting for this very reason). You can also purchase yellow glasses that will block out the blue light when looking at the screens of your devices.
Ideally, avoiding the screens and the never-ending stimulation of social media at nighttime will ensure a better night’s sleep and, in turn, an easier time getting up in the morning and focusing on the tasks at hand.
#3: Look at your plan before you turn in and after you wake up
After you’ve turned off your devices for the evening, take a look at your calendar, task list, or wherever you might keep your plan for each day. Decide before you fall asleep what 1-3 tasks you will focus on the next day. When you wake up, before you turn your devices back on, look at that list again to remind yourself of these goals.
While 1-3 tasks may feel like a light load, keep in mind: life happens. That is why I suggest avoiding what I call “The Purse Curse”--filling every hour of your day with something much like you would fill a large bag to the brim.
Give yourself room to actually accomplish something. Rather than 10 tasks getting pushed back due to traffic, you’ll want to build in buffer time for those things. Having expected the unexpected, you can still accomplish what you set out to do. Taking these measures to stay motivated and productive are priceless as they contribute to an overall positive mindset.
Slow and steady...
Succeeding in the music industry is by no means easy, which is exactly why you should do what you can to ensure you are up for the challenge. Think long-term by taking small, focused action in the short-term.
As someone who was used to burning the candle on all ends, I know that a change in lifestyle takes considerable time and discipline. New habits do not happen overnight; they are developed through concerted efforts to replace detrimental behavior with healthier routines. With this determination to avoid burnout, know that you are capable of making real progress towards your goals.