We’ve all heard the saying ‘eat, sleep, dance, repeat’ – and it’s honestly the story of every serious dancer’s life. However, if you want to take dance seriously, you need to truly appreciate the first two steps. A nutritious, balanced diet is key to healthy living, and so is sleep/rest.
When you’re young, it’s easy to take things like sleep and rest for granted. You’re fit, you’re energetic and that makes you feel invincible. However, even the young and the athletic need both sleep and adequate rest in order to perform at their best. It doesn’t just help your body recuperate, it also assists in injury prevention.
The need for rest and recovery
Resting following strenuous exercise allows the body to repair and regain its strength. It also provides an opportunity for the elite athlete or dancer to recover both physically and psychologically. During physical exertion, our muscles are depleted of glycogen (energy stores) and body tissues are impacted. Afterwards, these stores and tissues need time to regenerate.
In the short-term, the recovery process is initiated by doing “cool down” exercises. Long term, periods of rest within training schedules (such as dance holidays) offer ample opportunity for athletes to take a much needed break, ready to return to rigorous exercise better than ever.
The need for sleep
When we sleep and when we exercise, our bodies release somatotropin, which is the human growth hormone. This process is necessary for all people, but especially dancers. The secretion of somatotropin increases during sleep, allowing us to grow and get stronger.
For dancers, this process also improves memory function, which will assist with learning and memorising new choreography. It also boosts the motor skills which are heavily used in dance. Just like rest, sleep is important for physical and mental recovery too. High intensity workouts raise stress levels in the body, and sleep is required as part of the recuperation. In dancing and all elite sports, the risks of injury are far higher when a dancer is tired, sleep deprived, or inadequately rested as their senses, awareness and focus will all be affected.
Sometimes, dancing and elite sports can lead to sleep disturbances or mild insomnia, because the mind of an athlete is always running at high speeds. If you have a young dancer who struggles to take rest, or get adequate sleep, here are some tips for preparing for deep slumber:
- Ensure the room is dark and the temperature is comfortable
- Avoid caffeinated beverages or foods with high sugar content
- Set a regular bed time and wake up time, and stick to it
- End screen time at least thirty minutes to one hour before bed time
At Newcastle Dance Academy, we see talented young athletes performing at their best each day. We know that part of having this strength, talent and ability comes from knowing when to rest, and having positive sleep health habits. If you’d like to know more about the importance of sleep and adequate rest to dancers, or you’d like to enquire about classes at our studio, please feel free to phone our friendly team on 4961 6233.