The modern day rock star is the DJ. With the ‘rock star’ label comes the rock star lifestyle. With such a demanding profession and lifestyle, it’s no wonder why some of us DJs are lacking in the health department. You have to take a moment and see how DJing is affecting your health. Many things should be taken into consideration when talking about health and DJing, like sleep patterns, eating healthy, what you’re drinking, exercise, how long you’re standing, and even healthcare. These all contribute to your mental and physical well-being as a DJ.
Many DJs, including myself, hold a day job. Sometimes it’s a career that we want to pursue outside of DJing, and other times it’s a dead end job that just helps pay the bills. Either way, it’s a day job, and requires your full attention from 9am to 5pm. If you’re like me, you try not to take gigs during the week because of my day job. If it were up to me, I would have gigs every night of the week, but of course, I would be very unproductive the next day. The day after a gig, I’m usually in extreme zombie mode. Typically on a weekday gig I’ll get home around 2:30am, fall asleep around 3am, four hours later my alarm reminds me that I have a day job to get to. You eventually get used to it, but this could have some extreme effects on your body. A study put on by psychologistworld.com showcased how sleep deprivation affected a DJ who went without sleep for eight days.
“Such cases are rare, though, and research has shown that sleep is important, and that sleep deprivation can have serious side-effects. Take the case of American DJ Peter Tripp, who in a radio stunt, spent eight days without sleep. During this time, Tripp experienced hallucinations and delusions whilst awake, and he is thought to have experienced longer term effects. After the experiment, the DJ caught up on only some of the missed sleep, but it should be pointed out that the non-laboratory conditions of the test and potential genetic factors relating to the side-effects mean that we can’t say this would happen to everyone deprived of sleep.” – psychologistworld.com
Though this is an extreme case, it still brings the reality of sleep deprivation to the forefront. Aside from the psychological effects that lack of sleep brings, you also face the fact that you’re driving home from gigs at 2, 3, even 4 in the morning. This is seriously dangerous in regards of falling asleep at the wheel. Try to take naps as much as possible, especially before a gig. It’s hard for me to nap, but when I do, I feel 20 times better that night! A good tactic I’ve found that helps keep me awake on the road is sunflower seeds, or other snacks, but be mindful of what you’re eating.
Food and Diet
At one point, I would go to IHOP or another late night eatery after almost every gig. Aside from gigs and DJing, my lifestyle was so hectic that I would hit the drive thru once almost every day, sometimes twice. It got so bad that the drive thru lady would expect me there every day. She even had a nickname for me, “drive thru Romeo.” In case you’re wondering, that is a 100% true story! I was a big fan of soda and I had my fridge stocked, and I mean stocked with Dr. Pepper – I think I could of scored a sponsorship if I wanted. Fast food, soft drinks, and late eating were contributing to my weight gain. Now, I have to be honest, I didn’t get heavy by any means, but I was rapidly developing a belly, and most importantly my health was suffering. Aside from weight gain, late night eating has its own dangers. It contributes negatively to our health in so many ways. Take this article that was posted on nytimes.com for example:
“Acid reflux is an epidemic affecting as many as 40 percent of Americans. In addition to heartburn and indigestion, reflux symptoms may include postnasal drip, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, chronic throat clearing, coughing and asthma […] What is responsible for these disturbing developments? The answer is our poor diet, with its huge increases in the consumption of sugar, soft drinks, fat and processed foods. But there is another important variable that has been underappreciated and overlooked: our dinnertime.” -nytimes.com
I’ve since cut soft drinks dramatically and long gone are the days that I buy soda or other sugary drinks. It’s rare that I even drink soda, only if I’m craving something sweet. I’ve also had to cut if off with the drive thru lady, I’m sure it broke her heart, but it had to be done! Try to stick to healthy foods. I know it’s hard, so at the very minimum try to cut down on unhealthy food consumption. For those late night hunger cravings, a late night snack is fine, but as with anything else, moderation is key.
This is a big one for DJs, and I’m speaking on first hand experience. I’m not a big alcohol drinker, but all the bartenders at my gigs know to have a Red Bull and water ready for me. Red Bull to keep me up, and water to keep me hydrated. Energy drinks, I know I shouldn’t, but I like them. I don’t even think they help me stay awake anymore, it’s become pure habit to have a can to sip on. If you’re an avid consumer of energy drinks, this article in health.usnews.com may change your mind. It states:
A few years ago, Fahad Ali, an internal medicine resident at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania, saw a couple patients with the usual symptoms – chest pain, irregular heartbeat and, in one case, cardiac arrest – but without the usual causes. There were no clogged arteries, significant family history, complications from medications or illicit substance use. Both men were young and otherwise healthy. Then the doctors discovered a link. “We [dug] down more in the history and found that those patients were consuming energy drinks every day,” Ali says. -health.usnews.com
Those who know me know that I’m a big fan of coffee. So I’ve been replacing energy drinks with coffee. I try to have a cup before my gig, and if I can, I’ll take a to-go mug with me and sip on it throughout the night. Obviously, energy drinks contain a bunch of caffeine, and also other substances that have a negative effect on our bodies. Coffee might be a good solution to those who need a little extra help staying awake or alert for those late night party-rocking sessions.
I’m guilty of not doing enough of this. We all should be drinking more water, but sometimes it’s easy to forget, especially if we get distracted running from gig to gig, downloading new music or writing blogs. Just last week, I attended and played at KS 107.5 Summer Jam, and right after I went straight to another gig. I started getting a headache and I knew it was because I hadn’t had enough water. I went straight to the bar and asked for a cup of water. Throughout the night I had at least four or five cups of water, and didn’t need to use the restroom once. My body had soaked it all up. Here are a couple of ideas to help you drink more water. Any time you pass a drinking fountain, take a sip, when out on a gig ask for a cup of water. There are apps even for your phone like Daily Water, Water Alert, and others that remind you to drink water. No reason not to keep hydrated and rock a party at the same time!
It seems as if gym culture (if that’s a real term) has gone mainstream. Social media gets flooded with selfies of cut-off tanks and sweat bands. Annoying right? Well, you should jump on the bandwagon, it’s good for your health – literally! I was never the type of guy to go to the gym, but I’ve been going consistently for the past 3 years or so, and it has dramatically improved many aspects of my life. People go to the gym for different reasons. They could be looking to gain muscle, tone, or reach an ideal weight. This article by livstrong.com explains the physical benefits of going to the gym every day, which include weight control and heart health. Furthermore, going to the gym and staying active helps with mental health too. The Huffington Post posted an article that lists 13 mental health benefits of exercise. Some of these include anxiety alleviation and stress reduction. Depending on how demanding your gigs are, or how deep in the industry you are, stress and other mental strains can be your worst enemy. For $30-$40 a month, you can drastically increase your physical and mental health, so make sure you get out there and sign up for a membership!
Standing for Long Periods of Time
As DJs, we are standing for hours at gigs. Sometimes, two to three and up to five or more hours. This can cause serious back issues and can lead to back pains, and I’ve already started feeling it in my lower back. Not necessarily pain, but just tightness and soreness. I know several DJs that feel fatigue and discomfort in their back, legs, and feet. Many things can contribute to back pains regarding DJing. The main one of course is standing for long periods of time. Another is having your DJ set up too low. If it’s too low you end up having to hunch over, putting strain on your back. This has an easy fix, find something to prop your gear up. As far as standing, there are a few things you can do to helps this as well. Some DJ booths have an anti-fatigue mat that the DJ can stand on (these are heaven by the way). In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, these are the mats that feel like rubber memory foam, a lot of people use these in their kitchens. A couple of my DJ cohorts actually carry a mat around with them to gigs. You can pick one up for less than $15 here. Another solution is picking up some comfortable shoes, or even some shoe inserts from Dr. Scholls. I picked some up the other day, and they made a world of difference.
Let’s face it, our profession puts us in a loud environment, about 3 times a week. It’s unnatural for us put our ears in such a straining situation. If you’re not careful, your hearing will suffer, and suffer big! This article explains how even drinking while DJing can put your hearing at a higher risk.
“I know this is a bit of a party pooper tip, but the fact is that alcohol impedes your ability to perceive when the sound is too loud. Simply put, while drunk you will do serious damage and not even realize it.” -djtechtools.com
A couple of tips; don’t drink (or at least don’t get drunk) while DJing, don’t blast the monitor, and if you can, use earplugs!
Being a DJ means you’re self-employed. Most of the time you’ll get a 1099 after working a gig. This means you’re an independent contractor which in turn means you probably don’t have health benefits. Even so, it is extremely important to sign up for some kind of health insurance. Remember that day job thing we talked about earlier, it may have its perks. Some jobs provide health benefits, and you can be covered with your day job. If DJing is all you do, you may want to shop around and find a provider that will cover you for what you need. It may seem scary, but it really isn’t that expensive, considering what you’re paying for. An article on vegasseven.com talks about actual DJs and their personal encounters as well as health benefits.
One of the wise few, long time resident DJ Risk One (a.k.a. Marques Lewis) was covered when the worst-case scenario went down. After weeks of unexplained stomach and back pain, a trip to the emergency room found him on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis.
At one point, we all believe we’re invincible, that we’re indestructible. Truth is, we’re not. We have to take care of ourselves just like everyone else. Having a “it won’t happen to me” mentality will not shield you from what’s out there.
How DJing is affecting your health, really comes down to you and how you choose to live your lifestyle. We all love what we do right? So why not take care of ourselves so we can continue doing what we love to do for a long time. Simple steps can be taken to increase our health and quality of life. Drinking more water, picking up a gym membership, and staying away from food and drinks that can harm us all contribute to having a healthier lifestyle. This will obviously lead you to being healthier, but also happier. It will improve your outlook on life and might even help you get more gigs. I don’t know about you, but I want to be around and healthy for a while, so I’ll be doing my part, and I hope my fellow DJs take care of themselves as well. I’m here for a good time AND a long time, how about you?