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“I thought I had it under control—but I had to be honest with myself,” the star says.
A Broadway star and movie heartthrob, Taye Diggs has most recently won audiences over with his five-season stint as coach Billy Baker on the hit CW series All American. But in an exclusive interview with Best Life, the actor opened up about the debilitating health condition that threatened to sidetrack his career long before he landed that role.
Starting over a decade ago, Diggs says he began suffering from a condition that rocked his personal and professional life—and admits that the longer it went on, the harder it became to hide. Read on to learn about the ailment that left Diggs struggling to make it through his workdays, and to find out how he’s successfully reclaimed his life and health since then.
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Diggs says his health woes began twelve years ago, when his son, Walker Diggs, was first born. Sharing the newborn night shift with his then-wife, Frozen star Idina Menzel, Diggs reveals that he developed debilitating insomnia which would ripple into his career and personal life for years to come. “I never knew how long he was going to sleep,” the actor recalled of those early days of parenthood. “If it was my shift, I started to get anxiety surrounding when he would wake up or for how long he would stay awake,” Diggs told Best Life. “From that point on, it just grew.”
The star tried everything he could think of to restore his sleep during those midnight hours: meditation, “hypnosis” videos he found on YouTube, calming apps, exercise, over-the-counter sleep aids, and more. Yet nothing seemed to make a difference, and his desperation only grew. “You come to a point when you’re trying everything and none of it works. That’s when it’s a little scary,” he said.
Diggs began drinking wine in the evenings as a way of “self-medicating,” and admits that he would sometimes wake up hungover despite his demanding workload on set. “Two glasses of wine isn’t the answer—then you’re just drunk and awake,” Diggs said, reflecting on the lowest moments of his insomnia journey.
Warm and welcoming throughout the interview, he described grappling with mood swings and a “short temper” on days when his sleep was at its worst. “It’s deeper than people think,” the Rent star marveled. “And then you bring all that energy with you to work the next day.”
Doctors say these types of mood fluctuations are common in individuals who suffer from insomnia. “We know that people who have ongoing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can suffer from daytime fatigue, low mood, and irritability, and can be significantly impaired during the day,” explains Gary K. Zammit, PhD, President & CEO of Clinilabs Drug Development Corporation and professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. In addition to having “generally poorer health outcomes,” Zammit says people with chronically poor sleep tend to have “more problems with cognitive function during the day,” and “more difficulty functioning in work, social, and family settings than people without insomnia.”
Diggs said he found himself “counting the hours” until the end of each workday due to his exhaustion. “I didn’t feel like I was pulling my own weight. And what was even more sad was I was okay with it, because I didn’t feel like I had any other options,” he recalled. This was particularly devastating for someone usually so committed to his career. “I’m one of the lucky ones in that I’m able to do something that I enjoy—something that I feel I’m good at. So to be at work and not really appreciate that… to not be able to work at a certain level where I know I can be my best, it can be depressing.”
However, Diggs says his professional concerns paled in comparison to those emerging in his home life. “What hit me harder was when it began affecting my relationship with my son. I just wasn’t in control of how I wanted to be with him,” the actor explained. Diggs says he “always took pride” in “being that dad that was always there because, you know, my father was not.” Yet he admits that as his insomnia worsened, he began making excuses for his waning engagement as a parent. “There was time that he wanted to spend with me… and I just couldn’t fake it,” he said.
When Diggs began falling asleep at his son’s basketball practices, he knew something needed to change. “That just didn’t sit well with me,” the actor shared. “I mean, he’s too young—we’re both too young—to be walking down that road.”
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After years of insomnia, Diggs finally turned to a doctor for help and was prescribed the sleep aid QUVIVIQ. He now partners with the brand to share his unique sleep story with others.
“Some people need help letting their body do what it’s supposed to do naturally at night. You know, we live in a day and age where there’s so much stimulation. A lot of what we’re supposed to do naturally doesn’t occur just because of the lives we lead—and that doesn’t take away from the fact that we still need rest,” Diggs said. “I’m not a doctor, so why would I put that on myself? Sometimes you need help.”
Though he admits he had to work through a sense of “shame” and “stigma” to ask for the help he needed, he says he finally feels like himself again after resolving his decade-long sleep issues. After years of thinking, “I need to be better than this,” the actor says he’s finally reclaimed the life he loves.
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read