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.

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.

Aries

You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)

Taurus

As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.

Gemini

Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).

Cancer

Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.

Leo

We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.

Virgo

You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.

Libra

Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.

Scorpio

You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?

Sagittarius

You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

Capricorn

You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.

Aquarius

Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.

Pisces

Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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