An Overlooked Item for Every Actor’s Toolkit

January 19, 2018

Being a great actor takes talent, hard work, focus, endurance, and a bit of old-fashioned luck. Having all these components working on your behalf is a tall order in and of itself, but succeeding as a working actor also takes something a little more esoteric and perhaps even unforeseen: it takes a good night’s sleep. In order to have the energy and spirit to brave the audition process and the grueling hours on set, to get through the physical, emotional, and spiritual work that’s attendant in any great performance, you want to be well-rested with your memory and reason and speech firing on all cylinders at any given time. Not to mention the fact that in a world of ultra HD, dark circles and puffy bags under the eyes is just not a good look. Face it, Wheaties ain’t gonna do it; you need to sleep. Portraying a complex and compelling character is hard enough, but if you are sleep-deprived, it’s near impossible–unless, of course, you’re playing an insomniac!

Speaking of which, Tim Ferriss, author of the New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek, TV host, celebrated motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and self-described language-learning fanatic, is also a lifelong insomniac. According to Wikipedia, The New York Times listed Ferriss among their “Notable Angel Investors” while CNN said he was “one of the planet’s leading angel investors in technology.” For such a creative, productive, and forward-thinking person, turning off the brain at night is most likely a real challenge. But Tim claims to have solved this vexing dilemma by drinking decaffeinated tea with raw honey and apple cider vinegar about an hour before bed. “I’m not 100-percent sure on the biochemistry behind why this works, but it knocks you out like that.” He goes on to say, “Many of my friends who are chronic insomniacs have credited this with better sleep than even prescription medications.” Ferriss also suggests reading fiction before bed, as fiction doesn’t keep the “problem-solving apparatus [the mind] in sixth gear.”

With all of that being said, Tim can come off as a little elitist as he sips his tea and honey, reclines in a luxurious soaking tub, and winds down in his private sauna. Regardless, we ordinary folks can simply have a bit of organic tea and raw honey, take a nice bath and read a bit of fiction before nodding off to the land of dreams. Or just have a tablespoon of raw honey, add a pinch of sea salt, and polish it off with a teaspoon of coconut oil; that’s purported to do the trick just as well!

Although many who work on TV and film productions–from PAs to cinematographers to actors–don’t speak about it much, the industry has a well known, chronic problem with sleep deprivation. Those involved don’t complain because working with minimal amounts of sleep can seem like a prerequisite to maintaining a job in the industry. And unfortunately, some of those suffering from lack of sleep privately deal with the challenge by turning to drugs as they attempt to take control of their sleep and wakeful hours.

It’s no surprise that sleep experts recommend keeping to an evening routine to promote healthful, quality sleep. This includes avoiding caffeine six hours before bed; no alcohol or food three hours before falling asleep; finish exercising two hours beforehand; and the hour before bed, turn off all electronics, stop working and studying, and allow yourself to unwind. They advise recharging cell phones away from the bedroom and sleeping in darkness. But adhering to all of this can be a far stretch during shoots where concerns with limiting production costs are front and center.

So, it’s important to figure out what healthful options to promote sleep work best for you. Maybe Tim Ferriss’ tea concoction will work like a charm. But whatever you find that works, keep it as one of the most valuable items in your actor toolkit. After all, you’re going to need it for the eighteen-hour days on set, for the reshoots and voiceovers, the red carpet events, the press obligations, the paparazzi, and your adoring fans!

Do you have any healthy habits that consistently promote sleep? Please share.