The Sleeping Dancer

How much sleep do you have every night? Sleep is so fundamental to our everyday well being, which may seem an obvious statement but scientific research has discovered that the world is not having enough sleep. Ideally we should be having 8 hours of sleep a night and as Dancers if you have been moving all day, you may need more to recover and relax from classes, rehearsals and the stresses and strains placed on the body. Sleep also allows the mind to quieten down from the busy chatter of thoughts and creative ideas.

90% of people do not have a regular sleeping pattern and lack of sleep can cause serious health issues. It means that not only has the body been deprived of a necessary chance to recover from strenuous activity, it also lowers concentration levels, lowers reaction times, encourages low mood, allows less ability to deal with stressful situations and it reduces energy levels. All of these factors are determined by how much sleep you had last night. These areas are crucial to function everyday and even more so when dancing or training. Lack of sleep can increase the chance of injury and illness, which can in turn cause stress and depression.

These may seem obvious statements but a good nights sleep is not always common practice and scientific research demonstrates that a large proportion of people may try and survive on 4-6 hours of sleep a night and then rely on a big cup of coffee in the morning to become more alert. If your sleep can be increased to 8 hours a night, it will increase your capabilities the next day by 20% and improve your cognitive abilities, motor reflexes and memory recall.

From experience, it is common for a dancer to be teaching or performing late into the evening and it can become more difficult to unwind and relax before bedtime. The adrenalin produced during exercise can be difficult to shift, if it is later in the evening and it can prove difficult to switch off physically and mentally. Ideally research demonstrates that you should not exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime as it takes time to settle down from exertion. However, as dancers, we know that this is not always possible as performances are generally evening times or classes can go on until late.

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So how can you unwind from this and initiate sleep quickly to ensure you have a full 8 hours sleep or more?

1. Eat earlier! I used to eat late after dancing and it’s actually not good for you. If you eat late, the body has already begun to shut down and does not absorb the necessary nutrients normally acquired in an evening meal. Instead if you know you are working late, eat a fuller meal earlier and have something smaller and nutritious when you get home.
2. Try to not watch TV or work on your computer an hour before bed as it stimulates the brain and can in fact wake you up.
3.Dim the lights in your home to calm your self down and encourage relaxation.
4.Drink camomile tea – it’s delicious and calming!
5.Have a warm bath. Treat yourself to a bubble bath and candles too if you like!
6.I personally find a reading a nice book (nothing to stimulating), helps me to fall asleep.
7.Try meditation. There are many options on line or free podcasts that you can try out and find a style that suits you. If really does encourage the body to relax and fall asleep.

Happy snoozing!

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