Can getting better sleep make you a better musician?

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume 112, No. 4April, 2012

Cindy Green, LCSW

The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at or (212) 397-4802

How did you sleep last night? Did you sleep eight hours? Was it good restful sleep? Experts suggest that adults should sleep seven to nine hours per night. This can be a challenge for a musician, who works in different venues, subbing at different shows and playing in so many distinct genres. The work can be stimulating, inspiring and interesting but not always conducive to regular and restful sleep.

The constant pressures of life result in an elevation of stress hormones, producing wear and tear on our bodies. This increases blood pressure and facilitates the progression of aging. Sleep helps reduce stress. These processes will be slowed down with healthy sleep, you will begin to feel more relaxed, and your cardiac system will be at a lower risk for disease.

Not only stress hormones are affected by sleep, but so are the hormones that affect our appetites. Disruption of these hormones stimulates our appetites leaving us to crave unhealthy foods, high in fat, carbohydrates and calories. Additionally, lack of sleep can increase your chances of developing diabetes

When we sleep, our brains are processing the experiences we’ve had during the day. Think of all of the business meetings, music lessons and networking you do to get more gigs. Healthy sleep patterns improve memory and thought organization.

Poor sleep habits can lead to increased depression and anxiety. Many people are irritable and grumpy after a poor night’s sleep. When this has become the regular routine it can lead to long term mood disorders.

Changing long standing habits can be challenging. But there are some fairly simple changes you can make to improve your sleep routine.

  • Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. This way, your body will develop expectations and sleeping and waking will feel more natural.

  • Make your bedroom a comfortable sleeping environment. If you live in a studio apartment, see if you can arrange your furniture to create a sleeping area and a living area. Use the bed for sleep and sex only. Try not to work on your bed; associating the bed with other activities will make it harder to wind down when it’s time to sleep.

  • Create a calming routine before sleep. This can include dimming the lights, drinking decaffeinated or herbal tea and doing relaxation or breathing exercises. Reading a book or magazine is often helpful (although make sure you are not reading from a device that is back lit like the iPad).

  • Plan to go to sleep. If you start to feel drowsy after a big dinner but it’s not yet time to go to bed, do some mildly stimulating activities like talking on the phone or simple household chores. Avoid drinking too many liquids in the one to two hours prior to bed time and go to the bathroom just before bed to help avoid waking up in the middle of the night.

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other drugs that can impact your sleep cycle. Although a nightcap might help you fall asleep faster, you will also be more likely to wake up during the night.

  • Exercise regularly. About 30 minutes of exercise per day will help you sleep. And you can break it up over the course of the day. Consider taking two 15-minute walks per day. Perhaps you can get off the subway or bus early and walk part way to your destination.

If you would like to discuss the particular aspects of your life that are affecting healthy sleep patterns, please contact the MAP office at (212) 397-4802 or e-mail

Resources used for this article were found at and