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Ballet Talk for Dancers

sleepless?


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Yesterday I had a performance for a student workshop I was in (yaay!! :) ) and as a result of the adrenaline/nerves/emotional toll (it was a pretty emotionally charged modern/neoclassical piece) I did not sleep a wink last night. I’m totally wiped out today. This always happens when we have a performance, and I can understand how performing would cause a certain amount of excitement that would interfere with sleep.

 

But I often have problems sleeping after evening classes too, and have the same sense of being “wired.” I think it’s just part of exercising at night – you get your heart pumping and it takes a while to settle down. I wonder if anyone out there has the same problem, and have you found anything that helps you get a good night’s sleep? I’ve tried hot baths, warm milk, lavendar on my pillow, gentle stretching, etc, but so far have not had a lot of success. :)

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I've had that problem over the course of a number of professional seasons; living on 5-6 hours sleep every night doesn't help in rehearsals. It gradually went away over a couple of years of seasons, as my body got used to dancing at all odd hours.

 

I danced on your schedule, I don't think it would ever go away for me.

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Boots, I struggle with this too. Especially my muscles which are still firing, and my mind is doing combinations.

 

What helps me sometimes is having a pasta dinner (not to big a portion) directly after class. A glass (small) of white wine also helps sometimes, I always take a hot bath.

 

I also like to read a novel till I fall out - something which requires concentration so you get tired, nothing too exciting or you will stay up and finish the book!

 

I also like to read the book Victoria Leigh recommended - Gretchen Warren Ward's ballet book which is exhausting enough in showing me just how much I have to learn - I fall asleep not able to deal with it all. :)

 

Nitey Nite!

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Oh! Usually I am a as-soon-as-my-head-hits-the-pillow kind of sleeper, but last night, I got back from class later than usual because the bus was diverted. So I ate later, and there was less of a gap between eating (just a salad, nothing heavy) and going to bed. I took ages to drop off! This must definitely be a factor.

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Thanks for the responses everyone! I do admit that I often resort to a drink as well - a glass of wine or beer :D But I have read that drinking alcohol before bed is not a good idea because although it will make you sleepy, it may cause you to have more fitfull/ less restful sleep. And that does seem to be an issue for me - often when I finally fall asleep I keep waking up and don't really feel rested in the morning. Maybe it's a matter of finding a ritual or signal that tells my mind that dancing is over and now it's time for sleep - like breathing exercises, or a cup of tea or something.

 

Antbobby - I'll have to try Ms. Warren's book as a sleep aid. I look at it in the store all the time but have never bought it. I think the reason I haven't bought it is because the first time I picked it up, I happened to open it up to a page with an illustration of "acceptable" and "not acceptable" rotation - I definitely fall in the "unacceptable" camp and don't want to be reminded all the time! :mad: I'm afraid if I read it before bed I'll have nightmares of Gretchen Ward Warren standing next to me, barking "unaccaptable!" ;)

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Boots, boots, boots,

 

Well, I'm one of the UNACCEPTABLES! In fact, I went to Amazon and read the excerpts and discovered it online! (not that anyone had to tell me, I already knew it well)

 

Meanwhile, I managed to gather up the courage to find out just HOW unacceptable I am, so I have the book.

 

Actually, I do have daymares, but as far as the book goes, I have no trouble falling asleep with it in my lap. It is EXHAUSTING just how unacceptable I am ;)

 

Seriously, there is so much information that you get totally overloaded trying to study it, and then I get really sleepy. You will enjoy the book, you won't regret the purchase after you get over the unacceptable bits.

 

Here are some other sleep aids I have found help me - alcohol can wake you up, but sometimes a shot of grappa works really well.

Milder and gentler sleep aids: Chamomile tea, warm milk, calcium/magnesium tablets (good way to get into your system, works best on sleeping bodies and makes you a little relaxed and drowsy) Passionflower tablets, Valerian root tablets.

 

No, I'm not suggesting these all at once. Some times I just take one aspirin which calms me down. Start with 2.

 

so here is a routine:

1. Take a really hot bath while sipping chamomile tea

2. Take calcium magnesium supplements after your bath

3. Take 2 aspirin as well

4. Get out a technical manual and try to learn a new trade (like ballet)

5. Dim the lights so it is hard to read well

6. Get your room super comfy - not too hot, a little cool

7. Play some music like Debussey piano which relaxes you

8. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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*pop* (wakes up)

 

forgot something - you are not allowed to think about anything.

You have to program your brain to shut off, tell yourself you are only allowed to REST. It is against the law to review the day, review the whatever. Your brain is only allowed to process grey matter. Try and get in tune with the dead and have a conversation. It is usually pretty quiet this way. Pretend you are laying on the beach in some exotic locale, and simulate it well.

 

If you cannot sleep, just focus on physical rest. Eventually you will fall out. You are NOT allowed to stretch - it works the opposite, I wiggle my ankles when I want to wake up. Tell yourself I'm just going to lie here and rest.

 

If you can't sleep, get out of bed. Beds are for RESTING. Go and do some other activity which will wear you out. DO NOT watch television or sit on a computer, the monitor will make you feel groggy the next day. Better to just read or knit or something like that. Sew your pointe shoes if you take pointe.

 

The reason I'm good at this is that for the last 26 years I have had to program my body to go to sleep at the drop of a pin at any time around the clock, and get up at any hour I needed to. I'm a graphic designer and have to work funny hours to make horrible deadlines. I go home, go to bed at 5pm, get up at 1am, work till 11am, take a catnap, get up and work till 5pm and do it again. Food is critical - protein wakes you up, carbs put you out.

more food = more sleep, but you will wake up if you eat too much.

No caffein after 11am, this includes tea.

 

Basically, if you can't sleep, don't fuss. Just stay relaxed mentally, you'll catch up. It sounds like your exercise schedule is what is causing the issue, so you need a wind down period incorporated into your schedule.

 

Now that I've really bored you....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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Guest distantdancer

I had this same problem after class last week. I was totally wired and had to get up the next day for work. I tried meditating, I tried the hot shower, I tried relaxation exercises, nothing worked. As a last resort I had an ounce of this horrible Scotch that was given to us as a christmas present but is so disgusting that no one will drink it. I tell ya, I was out in ten minutes! It tastes awful but gives you the nicest warm sensation as it goes into your system. To be used in times of emergency only!

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Guest beckster

I had problems sleeping when I was writing my PhD thesis - I literally didn't sleep for a couple of months. The problem really comes when not-sleeping becomes a routine and you worry you won't sleep, which means you then don't sleep because you are worrying! I eventually worked out a number of things that got me sleeping again. Firstly, I made sure I didn't drink anything containing caffeine after 4pm. Secondly, I would have a bath. Thirdly, in the UK we have something called Kalms. Basically it has a variety of herbs and stuff in that is meant to help you relax. It's the hops and the valerian that do it. The packet advises that you take 2 tablets 3x a day, but I found that made me too chilled out when it was work time! So, 2 kalms before bed was enough. And this is coming from a person who violently objects to taking any kind of medicines unless it is absolutely necessary.

 

Oh, and if you are lying in bed worrying, get out of bed and write a list of the worries. It sounds like a cliche, and I never thought it would work, but it really helps me get things in proportion and then I can sleep.

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Originally posted by distantdancer

As a last resort I had an ounce of this horrible Scotch that was given to us as a christmas present but is so disgusting that no one will drink it. I tell ya, I was out in ten minutes! It tastes awful but gives you the nicest warm sensation as it goes into your system. To be used in times of emergency only!

 

If it's for emergency only, then get a half-liter of really good Scotch, and enjoy the experience!;)

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Thanks again everyone for the responses! :P

 

I have tried Valerian before, with some modest sucess. We have something similar to the Kalms thing here (the name escapes me now) - an over the counter herbal sleep aid with valerian,hops and a few other things in it.

 

Antbobby - I didn't realize calcium/magnesium was a good sleep aid? Do you know why it is? I'll have to try it. My doctor has informed me that I should be taking more calcium as a preventative measure anyway.... (reaching the age where doctors like to start nudging you about no being a spring chicken any more... that fractured hip is right around the corner apparently.)

 

I'm not much of a hard liquor person, but maybe I'll give it a try (I'm one of those people who really *doesn't* like the "warm going down" sensation. For me it tends to signal an impending "warm coming up".... :o ) But - I do have this little bottle of stuff that we got on a visit to Prague. The Czech equivalent of vodka, I think. Can't think of the name of the stuff, but it's awful. Maybe it will do the trick! :P

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Boots!

 

Per my sister who is a midwife practitioner, calcium/magnesium (combo is best) is absorbed best at night while you are sleeping.

 

Calcium has an added benefit of calming your system, magnesium is good for absorption of Calcium and also for your muscles.

 

I've discovered when I take it at night it also helps you relax and fall asleep. My normal supplements require 3x per day, so I take 2x at night and 1x in the daytime. I take it just before bed. It never upsets my stomach. Warm milk has the same effect, but the supplements work well.

 

I also take a combo passionflower/chamomile tablet or a valerian tablet. On of the things you need to check on is that herbals can provoke an allergic response if you have sensitivity to ragweed, so watch out for that.

 

No more than 1 shot of liquor. More causes other issues - which is also unacceptable .

 

:P :P

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Knitting! Right before I go to sleep I'll knit a few rows (I've just started knitting mind you, this is only my second project.) The mental effort is both calm and focused and I find it really helps calm me down and take me away from whatever stress or 'wiredness' I'm feeling. Plus you end up with stuff.

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Guest Antony

Actually, listening to the radio (with headphones) while lying in bed helps me fall asleep. Maybe it's the comfort of having something on in the background, or perhaps it's the gentle distraction that prevents my mind from churning over the days' events... whatever, it definitely helps.

 

I listen to Classic FM (UK classical music station), and they generally have a pretty good selection on in the evenings. There are only two things that can go wrong:

 

(1) Some comedian of a presenter follows up a soporific blend of Ravel, Debussy and Chopin with the Radetzky March.

 

(2) They put on an excerpt from the Nutcracker, and the duvet disappears.

 

A.

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