The following is a guest contribution by Houston dance and health writer, Nancy Wozny (aka @dancehunter).
I’ve written about sleep so much that I could write this story in my sleep.
But thanks to the eight hours of sleep I had last night, I don’t have to. Besides a full studio of students, sleep is the one thing a dance teacher needs and often goes without. With a list of worries to keep one up all night, it makes sense to improve one’s sleep hygiene.
A good night’s sleep is vital to every human function, from metabolism to memory. The more we know about sleep, the more we understand its connection to learning. Sleep is when our body does its repair work. We need it, and about half of Americans are sleep deprived. This could be you or your students.
Here’s what you need to know.
Dark rooms work best. Even light creeping in from a nearby gas station can keep an optic nerve active. Check your bedroom for light leaks.
We sleep better in a cool room. It should be cooler than your living space. This is why all the new fangled pillows and mattresses offer cooling features.
Caffeine past two in the afternoon cuts into your late stage sleep, where all the good stuff happens. You may not even be aware of how caffeine is affecting your sleep. Keep coffee a mourning or early lunch beverage.
Our bodies love habit. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even weekends. I know, that’s hard. Sleeping in will throw your schedule off.
That computer screen is not like hot milk at all! LED light works against a good night’s sleep, as does the evening news. Set the scene, have some herb tea, take a bath, read a book. Make yourself sleepy.
Everyone suffers from a sleepless night from time to time. The bill you didn’t pay, the combination that you forget to figure out, the music for the recital that has yet to be determined are all things that can pester your mind in the night hours. If you find yourself tossing and turning, the best thing to do is to get up. You want your brain to think your bed is where you sleep. If you are worried that you might forget something, by all means, get up and do that thing.
Naps are sleep’s little cousins. A twenty-minute power nap can revive you for the afternoon hours. Remember to keep it short or you will feel more tired.
Re-frame sleep as something you do so you can continue to spread the joy of dance.
If you have continued problems with sleeping, consult your doctor. You can learn more about sleep disorders at the Methodist Hospital Sleep Center. Learn more about how to improve your sleep from Dr. James B. Maas at Sleep for Success.
Nancy Wozny is the editor of Arts + Culture Houston, a frequent contributor to Dance Magazine’s Your Body Column, and a former Feldenkrais teacher with 15 years of clinical experience. She contributes to Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher, Dance Source Houston, Culturemap and other publications. She sleeps and writes from Houston, TX.