The Ritual of Sleep

Rituals, used rightly, can unleash our energy -says Mark Baxter

Getting proper sleep is all about creating a ritual so your brain knows it’s time to shut down. 

Attempt to go to sleep at the same time every night – if you gig regularly then you should maintain the late schedule even on your nights off. As you get close to bedtime (whenever that is) start to wind down by dimming the lights and lowering the temperature to 68 F (20 C).

When you lay down the bedroom needs to be pitch black and quiet with all electronics turned off. I mean OFF — not just on “quiet mode.” It may seem harmless, but having a smart phone next to your bed chirping every time you get a hit on Twitter pulls your brain out of deep sleep. Also, the blue background on a screen tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime and may make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Each morning is when your biological clock is reset. You do this by bathing your face in sunlight — or exposing yourself to some bright lights for at least a half hour. 

Reserve Your Bed

Unfortunately, it’s easy to train your brain NOT to sleep by associating too many activities with a bed. So reserve your bed for just sleep and sex. That means no TV watching, reading, texting, songwriting or yapping on the phone. This can be a challenge when a bed is the only piece of furniture in the room (like in some of the cheap hotels I’ve stayed in). Even so, I am incredibly strict with this rule. I’ll sit on my suitcase if need be — so once I do lie down on a bed, my brain knows that I am there for sleep. 

Power Naps

Finally, I want to say a word about the “power-nap” — which is not a substitute for deep sleep but a great way to recharge. What defines a power nap is that it is no longer than 20 minutes — even if it takes you 18 to settle down. Anything over 20 minutes and you’re flirting with deep sleep. The problem with deep sleep is that it triggers a change in metabolism and can negatively affect the quality of your voice when you wake up (which you do not want in the middle of your singing day).

With practice you can get really good at power napping. I would always find a place after sound check — in the van, under a table, behind the drum kit — wherever you won’t be interrupted. Those 20 minutes were critical for getting my focus back for that night’s performance.

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