Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back To School Teach-A-Thon: Improve Dance With Your Eyes Closed.

To our readers, please visit the Back to School Teach-A -Thon to read about lots of really great suggestions by leaders in the field of dance. It is very exciting to be a part of this program.

Please read --

Dancers who sleep 9 - 10 hours a night have a secret edge over their competition.

"What? That is way too long to sleep. I have things to do?"

This is a common response from teen and young adult dancers, that is, until they dance with the "feeling of rest."

Read about Stacey. Stacey was a seventeen year old dancer who has been told she "is ballet gifted." Last year, Stacey had grown stagnant, was missing cues and was feeling very frustrated with herself. Her performance was slipping. Compounding her stress, her appointment to apprentice was being 'reconsidered.'

As we worked, she realized that she was not caring for herself. The demands of dance had increased and she was 'acting' as if she could live a "normal" life like her non-dancing friends.
They had more freedom, could "hang out on the computer late at night."

Stacey had to decide. Are her desires serious enough, important enough to reset priorities and discover new ways to resolve her belief that she was 'missing out on adolescence.' She decided that "YES!" ballet was that important.

Her care plan was as follows: To stop consuming sodas, to get a regular massage, to eat a complete breakfast, stop negativity, to improve sleep habits and to have "crazy time" with her friends on Saturday.

Her sleep patterns were also very irregular. She went to bed late and was a light sleeper. She woke up tired. Her long days made her feel exhausted just thinking about it.

She agreed to a 'test' because she really did not believe that sleep was '"that important.'"
This was a critical moment for her. She discovered that there were some aspects of her life that she could control to ultimately influence other parts of her life, mainly dance.

After two nights of solid rest, her teacher commented that she was "looking stronger."
She eagerly went to sleep at 10:30 for the remainder of the week.

By the end of the week, she no longer felt tired, had improved her turns and jumps, increased her concentration. This change was noticed by her teachers. She had less aches and pains. Stacey was feeling more "well." She rec'd an apprentice position.

The quality of your sleep time is equally as important as the quality of your day time.
Sleep influences dance. If you sleep long enough and deep enough, the body is prepared physiologically for the demands of dance; The mind is more clear and focused; Emotions are more stable.

Even missing an hour of sleep every night makes a difference. For some it is an immediate change. Here are a few signs of SLEEP DEPRIVATION:
  • Injury Proneness
  • Feeling Stuck
  • Poor Memory for Choreography
  • Catch Colds Easily
  • Low Immunity
  • Moody
  • Feel Very Stressed
  • Joint Problems
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Overweight by 5 -8 lbs.
Teens and college students are THE MOST SLEEP DEPRIVED age group on the planet.
This is also a time when dance training increases in intensity and hours. This inherent stress on the body must be regenerated. Sleep is one powerful resource for physical and mental regeneration.

Why Is SLEEP SO IMPORTANT? What Does It Have To Do With Dancing?

FIRST, when you miss sleep, the body knows and remembers. You feel tired, out of it and probably want to curl up in the corner. The body records this loss as a debt THAT MUST BE REPAID with sleep.

As the body and mind cycle thru the stages of sleep there is a lot going on. The 'night crew' work to renew the body and mind. The organs and systems of the body work to detoxify, regenerate and heal. When you miss sleep, the cycles do not complete themselves.

REMEMBER - Your whole being dances. You need to rest to rebuild and strengthen.

Here are some important discoveries about sleep and how it relates to performance:
  • Dreams ease mental and emotional struggles to offer insight and relief. Sleep reduces your reaction to stress. 'Life' does not bother you as much.
  • Blood sugar feeds muscle and ligament tissue to heal wounds and microscopic tears.
  • Heart strengthens to oxygenate every cell. You breathe stronger and deeper.
  • Detoxification occurs during sleep. The body moves toward health. You feel better.
  • Blood flow changes in the brain enabling it to decide what to imprint for keeping and to discard. Muscle memory! You remember combinations and information.
  • Central Nervous System shifts into a different activity mode. You are more steady.
Sleep is sacred to health, wellness - and dance! Make sleep a priority by doing some investigative work. Pay attention to how the feeling of rest or lack of rest influences your dance. Look back for how much you slept, or did not sleep for clues.

  • If you are negative about sleeping, You must change those thoughts, otherwise you will fight sleep. Say instead, "Sleep makes me stronger and healthier." or "My body is working even while I sleep." or "Every night that I sleep deeper, I improve my dancing.
  • If thoughts are running wild, listen to breath for several inhales and exhales. Just listen. Refocus every time you become distracted by thought.
  • Approach sleep time with activities that unwind you. TURN OFF THE COMPUTER and PHONE. Read a magazine, light a candle, listen to quiet music, hot bath...
  • Prepare for sleep is similar to rising up in the morning. You prepare for the day and you prepare for sleep. Keep that time sacred and as routine as possible.
  • Clean up your bedroom. De-clutter. Buy comfy sleep clothes!
  • If you have challenging sleep problems, seek a medical evaluation.
There are many ways to step yourself into a good night besides medications (and their side effects). Applying mental techniques and changing your behaviors are easier and healthier.

You may not realize that sometimes sleep disturbances have important clues to things you may be worrying about. Get help from a professional if you have difficulty falling asleep. Talk with your parents first (if you are a teen.)

I do hope you know realize why SLEEP IS IMPORTANT to health, wellness and your dance training. With the start of your new dance year only hours away, begin now to make sleep one of your highest priorities. You will notice a difference. I guarantee it!

Get your sleep tonight and dance stronger tomorrow.....

Here's to your Good Night!

Sanna Carapellotti, MS CHT
as featured in Dance Magazine and Dance Spirit

No comments: