Anyone who’s made a career in production knows how it oftentimes feels impossible to maintain continuity in your sleep cycle. Days often span 16+ hours, especially when considering the commute, and just as your head hits the pillow, your alarm goes off and you’re cursing your call time. Fortunately, there are entities like IATSE who fight for members and their rights like daily rest periods of 10 hours without exclusions and weekend rest periods of 54 hours. In our upcoming wellness initiative, we explore ways to improve your mental and physical well-being. Today, however, we’ll begin with Filmmaking Health 101: Sleep Wellness.
Now, this is just a snippet of what’s to come for our All Access members, starting in 2022. To discover how to master your craft while learning how to stay healthy, consider going All Access!
Who needs sleep?
You do! For far too long, health and wellness have taken a backseat to the job in film production. I don’t need to tell you how tough production work is—you might even be reading this during a break—living it day in and day out. It’s so impressive how hard filmmakers work to bring a larger vision to life, but at the same time, you must also consider the cost it has on your wellbeing.
I recall many late nights staying up on the phone with my cinematographer husband, as he drove home, just to make sure he didn’t fall asleep at the wheel! This isn’t just a random occurrence, it’s a feature of our industry.
Haskell Wexler’s 2006 documentary Who Needs Sleep? explored the deadly combination of sleep deprivation and long workdays. It premiered over 15 years ago and yet the problem still subsists because it’s so ingrained in the culture of our industry.
In addition to falling asleep under dangerous circumstances, sleep deprivation also comes with long-term health risks. For instance, Sara Vigneri noted in AARP Bulletin that “sleeping less than 6 hours a night increases cancer risk by 43 percent.”
How much sleep did you get last night? Was it over 6 hours?
Signs that you’re not getting enough sleep
Of course, you would know if you’re getting enough sleep, right? But, maybe you tell yourself if you just get your caffeine fix for the day, you’ll be fine.
Well… about that.
There are a few telltale signs on whether you’re sleep-deprived or not. And, a cup of coffee is doing nothing more than masking the issue. It’s like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. It’s not fixing the problem.
Unsure if you’re getting enough sleep? Below are some surefire signs that you’re sleep-deprived:
- Increased Acne
- Red, puffy eyes
- Weight gain
- Moodiness and irritability
- Junk food cravings
- Cloudy focus and memory
3 tips to improve sleep wellness
Tip 1: Wind down
Production throws you all kinds of curveballs. One of the toughest, though, is flipping schedules or when you’re on splits and going into a series of night shoots. No matter what time you get home, try avoiding going immediately asleep. (That is unless you have an abnormal turn-around.)
All stress is cumulative. If you don’t take the time to decompress then it will add up and weigh you down. Think of it this way: your mind must unwind before it logs off for the night.
Your nightly rituals are just as important as your morning rituals. Just as you should wake up, meditate, and stretch each morning, before falling asleep, you should maintain the same pattern. Stretch, meditate, do something little for yourself, and then turn in for the night.
Tip 2: Disengage from Devices
Don’t worry, take a few deep breaths and it’ll be okay. Twitter will still be there tomorrow. (LOL!) But, in all seriousness, blue light disrupts your Circadian rhythm because we evolved with the darkness of nighttime, free of artificial lights.
If your job compels you to be on your screen for hours upon hours out of the day, then invest in a pair of blue-blocking glasses. That’s because blue light blocks melatonin, a hormone you need to fall asleep. Instead of the screens, refer to the helpful wind-down suggestions above!
Tip 3: Sleeping While Traveling
Many of us who travel to different time zones for work feel weighed down by jet lag after disrupting our natural pattern. Fortunately, there are very helpful ways to overcome these pesky time zones.
First, always check the time zone of the place you’re traveling to. If the time zone is experiencing night when your plane takes off, try and force yourself to sleep on the plane. You should try and get up to 6-7 hours if it’s a long flight.
When you arrive at your destination, synch up with the time of day. Then, be sure to hit the hay and get a full night’s sleep in a bed to feel rested going into the next day!
The Bottom Line
As human beings, our body’s natural cycle was established by our ancient ancestors who lived in harmony with the sun. This internal clock is still very much alive in each of us. That said, if you live an unpredictable lifestyle—such as a filmmaker—there are still ways to become more in tune with your natural rhythms.
Improving your sleep wellness not only brings tremendous benefits to your performance on the job, but to the way you feel both inside and out!
Learn more about Lydia Hurlbut and her mentorship on maintaining optimal health and wellness while working in the film and entertainment industry.