Written by Dr. Meagan Robichaud, PT, DPT
It’s no secret that beauty rest is easily the most important and essential part of our day for many reasons as it helps improve our physical, mental, and metabolic health. But for dancers, logging the required and recommended 7+ hours of beauty rest per night can be nothing short of a challenge due to strenuous and demanding rehearsal schedules as well as debilitating mental stress that comes with the profession.
A study done on 24 classical ballet dancers found that up to 67 days prior to a scheduled performance, sleep duration and quality was significantly reduced compared to non-dancer age matched individuals. This same study found that overall, the ratio of time asleep versus wakefulness during the night was significantly reduced in dancers regardless of whether or not there was a performance season upon them. As most dancers practice their craft all year long, this reduction in quality sleep starts to add up and cause many debilitating issues that have a domino effect on overall health.
Importance of Sleep
A good night’s sleep can positively affect our bodies in many ways. The way our brain functions, including cognition, problem solving, concentration, and performance are all influenced by the length and quality of our sleep cycles. Sufficient sleep is proven to improve memory skills during the day which can be essential for a dancer when learning new choreography or combinations in class. Sleep also has a large impact on a physical function, increasing our reaction times and overall athletic performance. Without adequate sleep a dancer may put themselves at risk for injury due to decreased performance. On top of all this, sleep deprivation has been associated with a higher risk for depression, especially in the younger population.
Tips to Improve Sleep
Your bed is for sleeping ONLY. Avoid the urge to use electronics such as your phone, the TV, and your computer while in bed. Utilizing TV or your phone to help you fall asleep may seem like a good idea in the moment, but may actually be the reason you are staying up longer than you need to. Eliminating electronics will allow you to be prepared mentally to sleep once you get in bed.
Manage your caffeine intake. It is common for many people to think that having that last cup of coffee towards the end of the day is no problem because it will be “out of my system by bed” or “coffee doesn’t have much of an effect on me anymore.” On the contrary, caffeine can linger in your system for many hours even after the effects seem to have worn off. Consuming coffee after lunch time can make it harder to fall asleep at night and actually cause you to have restless sleep during the night.
Keep sleep consistent. It is easy to get in the habit of having a strict wake up early go to bed early schedule during the week and then succumb to a wake up late and go to bed late schedule on the weekend. This can make you feel drowsy and drained come Monday morning and therefore it is essential to try to maintain a consistent schedule all 7 days of the week.
Avoid the snooze button! If you are a person that likes to hit snooze every 5 minutes from 6:30-7AM, it would be best for you to just set your alarm for 7AM and avoid interrupted sleep in the morning. This will provide you with a better, more productive sleep schedule and keep you energized throughout the day.
Meditation before bed. Download an app or search for videos on YouTube that focus on deep breathing techniques to calm your system and release the worries and stresses from the day before getting into bed. This can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
Fietze, Ingo, Jutta Strauch, Martin Holzhausen, Martin Glos, Christiane Theobald, Hanna Lehnkering, and Thomas Penzel. “Sleep Quality In Professional Ballet Dancers.” Chronobiology International 26.6 (2009): 1249-262. Web.