Sleep Like Your Success Depends on It

Sleep Like Your Success Depends on It

Did you know that, on average, teenagers need 9.25 hours of sleep every night to function at their highest level?

Only 15% get 8.5 hours, while the rest are way under that. (And I have yet to meet a dancer in high school who sleeps more than 7 hours a night…)

Sleep impacts metabolism

A recent study from the University of Chicago shows that proper sleep may have a positive effect on glucose and insulin levels, namely it helps maintain cells’ sensitivity to insulin. Conversely, the less sleep you get, the less sensitive your cells are to insulin. Because insulin regulates how the body processes sugars and stores fat, it’s important that we not lose that sensitivity through lack of sleep.

So, not getting enough sleep can actually hurt us metabolically. “People think they can function cognitively on little sleep, but our study proves they are not tolerating the metabolic consequences,” said Dr. Matthew Brady of the University of Chicago, author of the study.

Tips to get to bed earlier

So now you have yet another reason to get to bed earlier! Here are 2 tips for doing just that:

  1. Turn off your electronic devices early. Incoming texts, social media, and one more episode of your favorite TV show all keep the brain active and alert. It can take between 30 and 60 minutes for the brain to get into sleep mode after any of these activities.
  2. If you must use electronics before bed, try turning on the “night mode” in the display and brightness settings: this subtracts the blue light from the display, making it easier for your brain to calm down when it’s time to sleep.
  3. Do some deep breathing or a body-scan when you get into bed. Mindful breathing calms the heart rate and quiets the mind, both of which will prepare you for bed.

Check out these resources for more info:

Performance Preparation: Have a Plan

It’s springtime, which means preparation is underway across the country for end-of-year performances. It’s an exciting time of technical and artistic growth as dancers push themselves to meet their onstage goals.

It can also be a time of physical and mental stress and fatigue, which is why it’s important to have a performance preparation plan. If you are wondering what that is, it’s simple: a performance preparation plan is a plan of action for the weeks and days leading up to your performance.

Because your rehearsal days will be longer and longer, you will be more tired as you get closer to the performance, which means it’s unlikely you’ll have a lot of extra energy to focus on things like food preparation or research on ways to be more centered or relaxed. Instead, try getting some concrete resources together now, so that everything is ready for you when you need it.

Resources to Add to Your Performance Plan

  • Relaxation

Both the mind and the body react negatively to stress. Part of being fully prepared for a performance is having a plan to manage your stress levels. Most of us have things that calm us down, like listening to music or taking a hot bath. Many health professionals recommend mindful breathing as an incredibly effective tool for relieving stress. Click here for some breathing exercises that you might want to try.

Whatever your relaxation methods, try to have at least one you can do in less than 5 minutes in a public place, like the dressing room or the wings. While taking a hot bath is wonderful, it won’t help with your “5 minutes to onstage” nerves.

  • Sleep

Once the rehearsals start getting more intense, you may find that you are more tired than usual. Listen to your body. You may want to plan on getting an extra hour of sleep every night. If that involves some schedule shuffling, make time to figure that out. Come performance time, you want to feel well rested and energized.

  • Diet

The foods we eat have such a strong impact on our energy levels and ability to perform. Ironically, the closer we get to performance, the more we tend to eat on the run and slow down our own cooking. Don’t let this happen to you! Set up some meal plans for the next few weeks, including portable snack. Do one big shop when you get everything you’ll need.

Depending on how much you’re dancing, you may need to increase the amount of food you’re eating. If you’re feeling unusually fatigued, make sure you are eating protein+carb combos both before and after dancing. Some popular combos are apples+peanut butter, carrots+hummus, cottage cheese+fruit, beans+rice. Small amounts regularly throughout your dancing day will keep your body fueled for what’s coming up.

  • Water

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Dehydration leads to fatigue and lack of concentration. Make sure you are replenishing your water supply all day, especially in the morning when you wake up (before coffee or tea).

  • Performance particulars

Check your makeup, hairpins, pointe shoes, elastics, etc. now to be sure you have enough of what you’ll need for your performances. Have extra of anything crucial so you will not have to go out and buy it the week of the performance. Having all of those particulars ready to go will help your mind to relax so it can focus on more important things.

  • Positive Mantra

Don’t let fear of failure or self-doubt get in your way. Have a positive mantra handy that you can repeat to yourself while breathing mindfully. This simple tool can be incredibly effective for combating stage fright and calming your nerves. Scroll down to my last blog entry for more information.

If you can get these things in order, you are likely to approach performance season more relaxed, well-fueled and well-rested than usual. All of which sets you up for an optimal experience onstage.