Night owls may face their own unique challenges (San Francisco Ballet's Isabella DeVivo, photo via @ballerinaproject_)

If you identify as a "night owl," then you're probably all too familiar with the feeling of running late. Maybe you've been trying to get into an early-morning cross-training routine for months, but when the alarm goes off, the struggle becomes all too real. Or you have no trouble performing until late at night, but find yourself sluggish during your morning rehearsals. Perhaps you're constantly scrambling to get to your first class on time, while others cheerfully boast that they've already been up for hours at the start of barre.

Most of the time, people will just tell you that you should be going to bed earlier, and getting more sleep per night. While this is good advice, it may not tell the whole story. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that there really might be differences in the way night owls and early risers are "wired"—and that society tends to cater to the morning people.

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American Ballet Theatre's Hee Seo in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Fabrizio Ferri.

We all do our best to get enough sleep, but sometimes it feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day. And dancers have crazy schedules, whether you're in the midst of a busy performance season, touring, or juggling classes and rehearsals. It's easy to convince yourself that if you can just get six hours or so, you'll be functional enough to get through the next day. But a study published in the journal Sleep found that getting six hours of shut-eye may be just as bad as not sleeping at all.

For the study, 48 adults were asked to limit their sleep to four, six or eight hours per night for two weeks—and one group didn't sleep at all for three days. Researchers then kept track of each person's cognitive performance, reaction time and mood.

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Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo in Alexei Ratmansky's The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor.

No matter how many times you think you've heard it all, new information about the importance of sleep is coming out constantly. From how many winks you get to the quality of your shut-eye, sleep has a big impact on helping you dance your best.

  1. Watch your social media use. One study found that checking your accounts repeatedly throughout the day could be disruptive to sleep.
  1. Give yourself time to wind down. Calming activities, like reading a book, are suggested to help you relax during the hour or so before bed.
  1. When you go to bed matters. People who tend to worry may benefit from turning in earlier, one study found. Going to bed later, along with sleeping for shorter periods, has been linked to more negative thoughts during the day.
  1. Perfect the art of napping. For best results, the length of daytime naps depends on what you're planning on doing when you wake up, whether it's taking technique class or learning a new work. Plus, one study found that napping could help you better tolerate frustration.
  1. Make your bedroom a relaxing place. Research shows that making your bed and keeping it clean can help you get a better night's sleep—simply because you'll be more comfortable.

American Ballet Theatre’s Hee Seo in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Fabrizio Ferri.

You already know how essential it is to get enough sleep—and how a night spent tossing and turning can affect everything from the amount of energy you'll have at barre the next morning to your anxiety levels and your appetite. The latest information about getting a good night's rest may be related to dialing down your digital habits throughout the day. A new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that frequent social media use may disrupt sleep.

The study measured sleep disturbances in a group of over 1,700 young adults, ages 19 to 32, and had them fill out questionnaires about their social media use. Researchers looked at how much time each person spent on popular social media sites per day and how often they logged in during the week.

Nearly 30 percent of participants had high levels of sleep disturbance. But the ones who logged into social media most frequently were three times more likely to have trouble sleeping, while those who spent the most total time online were twice as likely to have trouble. This suggests that it's not necessarily about how much time you spend browsing Facebook overall. Checking social media repeatedly seemed more disruptive to participants' sleep.

More research still needs to be done to determine the relationship between sleep and social media use, but it makes sense that constantly checking in could make it harder to wind down at night. Instead of scanning Instagram between every class and rehearsal, try choosing a couple times each day to scroll through messages or post photos. It may also help you stay more engaged with what's most important: dancing.

 

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Some days, it seems like however much I eat, my stomach just won't fill up. One possible culprit? A lack of Zzzs.

 

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that four nights of sleep deprivation reduced insulin sensitivity in fat cells by 30 percent—which means the body's producing that much less leptin, a hormone that inhibits our appetite. On top of that, previous research has also shown that getting only four hours of sleep a night slows our metabolism. Double oof.

 

Every body has different sleep needs, but the average is about eight hours. If you feel a never-ending need to nibble, try hopping into bed a couple hours early tonight and see if it's easier to put down the crackers tomorrow.

Wish your pointe shoes were slightly less painful? Get more sleep! A recent study found that when people stayed in bed for at least 10 hours a night, by the fourth day they experienced a 25 percent decrease in pain sensitivity. Researchers think this happens because we have more pain receptors in our blood system when we're exhausted. How's that for an excuse to sleep in?

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