Dancer Health
From repairing muscles to memorizing movement, sleep is essential for dancers' bodies and brains. Thinkstock

If you've led morning classes or rehearsals, you may be familiar with those dancers who enter the studio carrying a coffee from the closest café, or whose floor stretches look, in part, like an excuse to stay horizontal—and perhaps you feel their pain. Denise Warner Limoli is familiar with this scene; she teaches 9 am ballet classes at Skidmore College. Sleepy dancers, she notices, tend to be slow on the pickup. “A dancer usually has very fast responses, and sleep-deprived dancers are a little slow to react," she says. “They don't learn assigned combinations quickly, or they make mistakes that they should not be making at their level of accomplishment."

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Dance News

Dancers can train themselves to do many things—dance on pointe, bust out 32 fouettés, lift other dancers. But can a dancer, or anyone for that matter, train herself to need less sleep? According to sleep expert Dr. Sigrid Veasey, the answer is no. Studies show that people don’t actually adjust to decreased sleep. The deprivation just distorts their cognitive functioning and ability to assess their own sleep needs.

The average healthy adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, and teens need 8 to 10. Stimulation from caffeine, exercise or screen time can negatively impact a person’s sleep-wake cycle, especially later in the day.

Photo: Thinkstock

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