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Dear Little Bobby,
I’m a musician in a rock band that plays in bars. Our shows usually don’t start until 10pm or even midnight. Sometimes I don’t get home until after 2am, even if I have to work the next morning at 8am. I’ve been doing this for several years and it’s becoming more and more exhausting. I don’t want to quit playing in this band, but my sleep cycle is suffering, which means my job is affected along with my energy level, my attitude and my relationship. What are some creative ways to get more rest?
—Tired In Tuscon
Dear Tired In Tuscon,
This is something that musicians have been dealing with since the dawn of rock and roll, if not before. In fact, staying up late was the subject for some of the earliest rock songs—just ask Bill Haley. Some people consider Haley’s 1954 recording of “Rock Around The Clock” to be the first record which brought rock and roll into the mainstream of American culture. It went to number 1 back in 1955 and it was about…staying up late.
We all know about the triumvirate of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.” The truth is, having lots of sex and doing drugs can each contribute to a lack of sleep. I recommend as much sex as possible, but not a lot of drugs, which includes alcohol and stimulants like caffeine and tobacco. When my band plays I enjoy the two free drinks that I usually get, or less, but I stop at two. If I drink more than that, not only do open myself up to other problems, but too much alcohol interrupts our rest cycle.
I need it and I want it. Therefore I do it.
As far as caffeine goes, obviously do not drink coffee and soda late in the day, but I recommend not drinking coffee in the mornings either if you are having trouble sleeping. Why would you want such a strong stimulant each day if you are having trouble sleeping? Instead focus on having a large healthy breakfast.
As long as I am recommending what to eat, stay away from the tons of meat and dairy that most Americans eat. If you do not want to go full-on vegetarian or vegan, at least cut down on animal products. They are full of artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat. It is hard to feel energetic when our heart is working extra just to do its normal job! These same foods completely lack the fiber and powerful antioxidants which keep us regular and fight disease.
When we have our “energy input” system under control we can look at how we are expending that energy. A routine of regular exercise will actually make us feel like we have MORE energy. That might seem counterintuitive, but if you run/walk/bike on a regular basis, you will improve your cardiovascular health. Then, on days when you do not exercise, your body is still in good shape and it is ready for an activity such as sex, or staying up late playing music.
The last piece to this puzzle is to take better care of your mental health. I recommend mediation and other methods of stress management. We either want to keep playing in these bands or not. As I have gotten older, I have had to occasionally ask myself “Do I want to keep doing this?”—especially after key band members have quit or moved. So far, I have always answered “yes,” knowing that the day will come when I answer “no.” Until then, for me, it is mostly mental.
I eat right and I don’t drink too much, so for me personally, my main area of focus is stress management. The music has to be fun—even if it is a shit-load of work (which it is), it is STILL fun. I need it and I want it. Therefore I do it. That means some late nights and some early mornings. Not as many early mornings as back when I worked retail. Waking up at 6 am after a show, to go sell overpriced, overpackaged crap at Whole Foods was quite terrible, but I loved the music and never did not want to play it. My situation is better now and I get more sleep as a result, but I still have to make sure I do not lose sleep worrying about paying bills or a new song or whether the new idiot orange millionaire “president” is going to blow up the world or not. The best way to get plenty of sleep is to take care of yourself. Focus on your partner, your music, yourself and everything else that is trying to be, and trying to do, good in the world.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Everybody seems to think I’m lazy | I don’t mind, I think they’re crazy.” —The Beatles, “I’m Only Sleeping” 1966