Tuesday 21 August 2018

My sleep story - Danny O'Brien: 'I've started putting my phone outside the bedroom'

Danny O'Brien
Danny O'Brien

Resident host and owner of one of Ireland's most successful comedy clubs, The Comedy Crunch, Danny O'Brien spends much of his time on tour. He tells Liadan Hynes how life on the road messed up his sleep, and what it took to ensure proper rest.

 

'I'm doing comedy for about 10 years now. The late nights were a huge issue, especially as you've obviously got a bit of adrenaline running through you after a show," Danny explains. "I would come home and be up-to-ninety. And I'd be starving - that was another problem. So I would be eating late and staying up late, which isn't exactly the healthiest option. You come home and make a toasted cheese sandwich, and you're up late; it makes you feel awful after a few months."

An extended tour further compounded the problem. "I've been on a tour for five months and my life has literally just been driving, getting to venues, doing sound checks, doing run throughs, doing a show, then driving back or flying back.

"Driving back from Ennis at one in the morning... I've been the Barack Obama Plaza's best customer for the last two months. You're hungry, and there are only so many 'health' bars you can eat. I try to have a couple of bananas in the car. Anything that's not 11-hour-old fried chicken that I'm eating on the way home.

"I've started trying to eat in between shows and to bring something healthy, so when I get home I'm not eating loads. I've also cut out caffeine earlier, so nothing after six or seven."

Danny has also decided to cut out use of his mobile phone at bedtime. "I have started putting my phone outside my bedroom. It's just outside in the hall, so I can hear it when the alarm goes off. One of the biggest issues for me was that I'm always online for work. It's just habit.

"We're all addicted to our phones - I'd happily hold my hand up and say that I certainly am."

Obviously, though, this is hugely detrimental in terms of getting a good night's rest. "Sticking a light and the entire contents of the internet and social media in your head just before you go asleep? Of course you're not going to drop off," says Danny. "Even if your eyes are closed, your brain is going to be ticking over. I found myself having stress dreams related to whatever I had been reading. So now I try to go back to basics - just read something to knock myself out."

Post-show high is a problem for performers when it comes to going to sleep. "When I get home, to wind down I put something on TV that's not a hyper-addictive boxset that will end up in a Netflix tunnel. So usually something awful that I don't want to watch, that's almost just background noise. And I'll have a cup of herbal tea. I think if you write lists of stuff that you have to do the next day, it's a good way of detaching yourself. Write the list and leave it sitting there in the living room instead of procrastinating your head off for hours and hours before you go to bed."

Regular exercise has also been hugely important, "for my head rather than for losing weight. There's a group of other comics and actors I'm friends with and we've started going for hikes in Glendalough where I grew up. Nothing major, more a walk, but I find it's so good for all of our headspaces. And even if you're a little bit tired doing your show that night, you tend to sleep much, much better."

On a recent trip to LA he purchased melatonin supplements. "Maybe it's a placebo, they're only 5mg, but I find that they help."

Danny O'Brien's new show, Lock-In, will debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. @dobcomedy

DANNY'S TIPS

* "Don't eat crap late at night."

* "Leave your phone outside the room."

* "Try to get some exercise at least three or four times a week."

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