Your Body

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

With a full schedule of honors classes, myriad school activities, a part-time job and hours spent in the studio, dancer Carly Goldstein rarely got more than five hours of sleep on week nights her senior year in high school. “I remember falling asleep in school, which was horrific, because I was a very serious student,” says Goldstein, now a sophomore studying dance and psychology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. “In ballet class, combine a toasty warm room with beautiful music coming from the piano, and during a plié combination, I’d forget what position I was in and feel my eyelids droop.”

If this sounds familiar, you’re not the only one. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2006 “Sleep in America” poll, 45 percent of teens get an insufficient amount of sleep—less than eight hours—on school nights.

Other than the obvious (and annoying) side effect of feeling tired, inadequate sleep takes a serious toll on your health. Here’s what you should know about how it affects your brain, body and (surprise!) your metabolism:

Mental Effects: Without a good night’s sleep, you’re likely to forget a new combination or snap at a fellow dancer. “Inadequate sleep will result in poor attention, poor problem solving, poor mental flexibility and slower mental processing, and you’ll have much more difficulty regulating your moods,” says Dr. Dean Beebe, an adolescent sleep researcher with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “You’re going to be much more prone to mental errors while you’re dancing,” adds Dr. Christopher Makris, a sleep specialist from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Physical Effects: Beebe explains that your coordination and balance are significantly affected by inadequate sleep, not only impairing your performance, but also putting you at an increased risk for injury. Makris adds that your immune system is also weakened, which means you’re more likely to get sick.

Metabolic Effects: Sleep deprivation affects your body on a cellular level, and may cause it to burn calories at a slower rate. “There are multiple studies that show that people who get less sleep today will put on more weight during the next two to four years,” says Beebe. Other recent studies have shown that restricted sleep caused healthy young adults to experience an increase in cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods. That means that poor sleep could drive you to choose junk foods instead of healthy, wholesome ones.

• Recognize your individual needs.

Makris explains that the average teen needs 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep, but you may need more or less than that. Get to know your sleep needs! Track how many hours you slept on days when you felt rested and on days when you felt tired. How long you sleep before waking up naturally can also be an indicator of how many hours of sleep you really need.

• Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

It’s a common practice to go to bed and wake up earlier during the week, and then stay up and sleep in later on the weekends. Unfortunately, this can make you feel jet-lagged on Monday morning. Try to keep your bedtime and wake times as consistent as possible.

• Brighten things up.

“If you’re having trouble getting moving in the morning, get as much bright light as you can, first thing,” says Beebe. He even suggests going outside: “Artificial lighting conditions are 10 to 100 times less than even a cloudy day.”

• Lose the snooze.

“If a person is hitting the snooze from 6:30 am to 7 am, it’s probably just better to wake up at 7 am,” says Beebe. “That way, you’re not intentionally getting bad sleep in the morning.”

• Make sleep a priority.

Your sleep time shouldn’t suffer to allow time for other activities. If you’re in honors classes, the debate club and then dancing for four hours, chances are you’re not setting aside enough for sleeping.

• Turn off the electronics.

“Use your bed for sleep only—take the TV, computer and cell phone out of the bedroom,” says Makris. Watching TV to help you fall asleep may actually be keeping you awake longer. “Studies show that having a TV on in the room with you—especially in your bedroom—will make you stay up later than if you don’t,” says Beebe.

• Avoid late-night exercise.

“Your body temperature is cranked up, and it’s hard to fall asleep after heavy exercise,” says Makris. If you have the choice between a dance class that ends at 7 pm and another that ends at 10 pm, opt for the earlier one. If you can’t avoid late rehearsals, set aside some time to wind down before hitting the sack.

• Curb your caffeine intake.

“People seem to think that caffeine gets washed out of your body in a matter of an hour or two, but the reality is that several hours later there’s still a measurable amount of caffeine in your system,” says Beebe. Even if you drink coffee, soda or tea to stay awake during the day, the caffeine can make it hard to fall asleep once you’re ready for bed, or even cause restless sleep during the night. Limit caffeine to one beverage a day, consumed no later than lunch time.

• Beware of the innocent nap.

If you don’t get enough sleep the night before, you can take a nap to make up for it, right? Not necessarily. “If you can take a 20-minute cat nap and still sleep well that night, then you’re probably fine,” says Beebe. “But if you’re not getting enough sleep during the night, napping to make up for it and then not sleeping the next night, you’re feeding a vicious cycle in which you’ll never function well.”

• Look for sleep disorder warning signs.

Chronic snoring, restlessness during the night, falling asleep during the day, taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep or waking up frequently during the night can all be indicators of a potential need to see a sleep professional.

Take a few of these tips to bed with you and you’ll feel ready to take on the world tomorrow!

Quiz: Are You Sleep Deprived?

We’ve all heard those studies that say that the average teen needs 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night. But the truth is that each person’s sleep needs can be extremely different, says Dr. Christopher Makris, a sleep specialist from University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital. This means you may need more or less sleep than your friends or the national average. Take our super-quick true-or-false quiz to find out if you’re sleep deprived.

1. I never wake up in the morning without an alarm clock.

2. When it’s relatively quiet—like when I’m sitting in the car, watching TV or in a boring class—I find it really difficult to stay awake.

3. The times I go to sleep and wake up are significantly different on the weekends than it is during the week.

4. I often wake up several times during the night.

5. I use the weekends to catch up on sleep that I missed during the week.

6. I’m constantly reaching for highly caffeinated drinks (like energy drinks or coffee) or chewing gum to keep myself awake during the day.

7. I have fallen asleep while driving.

8. I have to take an afternoon nap to get through the rest of the day.

9. I always fall asleep within the first 5 minutes of lying down in bed.

10. I use the snooze button more than once and still wake up tired.

If you answered “true” for three or more of these questions, you could be sleep deprived. If sleep deprivation is affecting your everyday activities, you should ask your doctor about visiting a sleep specialist.

Dancer to Dancer

Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.

But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.

Keep reading... Show less
Win It
Courtesy CAA

You read that right, people—Dance Spirit's giving away two tickets to the "SYTYCD" tour in the city of your choice, complete with an exclusive meet & greet with select cast members! Read on for the complete prize listing and official rules.

Keep reading... Show less
Tiler Peck and Chase Finlay in Swan Lake (photo by Paul Kolnik)

For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.

Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.

Keep reading... Show less

Low on dancewear inspiration? Return to the classics in bold black and elegant white.

Keep reading... Show less

Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.

If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Via Facebook

Almost a month out, Puerto Rico continues to suffer the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Many of the island's residents still lack power, clean water, and safe housing. Ballet classes? For Puerto Rican dance students, they must feel like an impossible luxury.

But a dance studio in Florida is working to allow a group of young Puerto Ricans to continue their training. And it needs your help.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Gianluca Russo (via Instagram)

Yes, I am a dancer, and yes, I am fat.

There's nothing quite as soul-crushing as the reactions I've received when I've told people I dance. They can range from disbelief to confusion to shock. To many people, it's somehow incomprehensible that a plus-size person like myself could grace a stage. While the body-positive movement has been trucking along at full force over the past few years, it hasn't made much progress in the dance community yet. In fact, the words "body positivity" and "dance" are almost never used together in the same sentence.

Despite that fact, dance is what helped me learn to love my larger frame. In honor of National Body Confidence Day, I wanted to talk about my first time in a studio, and about the tremendous progress I've made since.

Keep reading... Show less


Want to Be on Our Cover?





Get Dance Spirit in your inbox