What Breakfast Radio did to my brain with Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross
Author: The Simple Bit
Tim Ross has spent a quarter of his life doing breakfast radio. Fun. But what do those crazy hours do to your brain?
The simple bits:
- Tim Ross spent over a decade on breakfast radio
- It does weird stuff to your energy, moods and cognitive abilities
- Exercise is the secret weapon of the radio host
A few months ago, Tim Ross went on a juice detox. His wife made him do it. The little booklet told him that by day two, he was likely to feel vague, tired and depressed. “I was going for a walk on day two, and I was tired. Tired and depressed. And it suddenly transported me back to how I felt when I was doing breakfast radio. And you just sort of live with it.”
Living with breakfast radio was the norm for about a decade – or a quarter of his life, as Tim puts it. First as half of duo ‘Merrick and Rosso’ and then in other permutations across multiple stations, Ross would rise somewhere between 4 and 5 am and bring the funny.
Ross would go to bed somewhere between 7:30 and 9:30 to prepare for the next day most days. But he gave himself some leeway. “I needed to have a life during that period of time. So I always stayed out one night a week went in a little bit, under the weather.”
Breakfast radio is a special kind of gig. Not only are you working the hours of a baker or dairy farmer, you also have an adrenaline burst. “There’s a certain energy to breakfast radio that doesn’t exist elsewhere,” Ross says. ”It’s a bit more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.”
And then your day is over when other people are just getting started. And you deal with the side effects.
This is your brain on radio
Apart from feeling tired (obviously) and slightly depressed, breakfast radio sleep patterns had other effects. “Oh yeah, it certainly hampered my memory. There’s no doubt about that.”
Then there are the mood swings. ”I was prone to being quite hyper-emotional,” Ross says. ”You’re on a plane … watching some crappy movie and you find yourself crying … Breakfast radio did that to me at times. Everything’s heightened and everything’s more important than it really is.”
“Oh yeah, it certainly hampered my memory. There’s no doubt about that.”
And it’s not just the sleep deprivation. Just the shift work nature of the gig had effects as well. “When your day’s winding down as everyone’s day is starting up it puts you at odds with the rest of the world. So it’s incredibly isolating in lots of ways,” says Ross.
So that’s the mental, but what about the physical?
“When you’re tired you eat more food, and you got to be careful about that sort of stuff.” Ross isn’t wrong here. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can interfere with the hormones controlling hunger, leading to increased appetite and cravings for foods high in sugar and fat.
So how did he counteract the carb cravings and low moods? Exercise.
“Exercise was the only way I got through it in the last three or four years, I’d just make sure that I’d run or go to the gym every day at least once. So, instead of napping when I was tired, I’d go for a run instead.”
So would Ross go back to breakfast radio now? In a word, no.
“I just wouldn’t like to have that sort of regiment in my life again,” he says. “I like flexibility too much now.”
The 4:30 alarm will be staying off.
Tim is currently touring his show Motel, a nostalgic, thought provoking and funny exploration of Australian holidays of the past.