FitBase: The importance of rest for recovery and performance

In life, the principle of rest is an ancient one, but one that we struggle to practice day to day in modern society. The demands of the modern lifestyle and the high load of stimulation through various forms of media can make it challenging to unplug and get good, quality rest. Several studies suggest that SLEEP is the single most important factor for physical recovery. Increased physical or mental demands increase the need to get good rest, yet most of us will sacrifice sleep while trying to be more “productive”.

Things to consider:

– Sleep restores our physical and mental energy and nothing else we do on a daily basis can supplement our energy in the same way.

– Tissue growth and regeneration takes place during deep sleep, therefore without it, we have limited gain or growth from training sessions.

– The amount of sleep recommended to maximize recovery is 7-9 hours per night.

– Sleep deprivation is linked to increased chronic pain, increased injury risk, general health risks and depression.

Creatives and Sleep
Creatives, especially dancers, are drawn to late nights, some are actually more “creatively effective” around and beyond midnight. Somehow, late nights allow creatives more room to explore, dream and grow as life quietens and slows down outside. For others, the demands of day time priorities (work etc) mean that training sessions are fitted in late or after hours. But as we consider ourselves “High Performance Artists”, we have to recognize the need for rest if we are to feed both our creativity and develop our athletic ability.

Sleep Hygiene: How to ensure a good night’s rest.

– LED and LCD Screens (TV; mobile phones, tablets etc) stimulate brainwaves that make falling asleep more challenging. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, you may need to consider rather catching up on your ByBase reading or updating your Facebook/ Instagram 1 hour before bed time;

– Park your ideas: keep a pad and pen handy to write down tomorrows to do list, or that new movement concept/ combo that pops into your head;

– Plan to finish vigorous exercise and meals post exercise with at least 1 hour before bedtime to ensure that your body is able to unwind before sleep;

– Deep stretching, reading and meditation can help you relax before going to bed;

– Limit large volumes of alcohol or water prior to bedtime to avoid a bathroom break disturbances.

– More than 3-4 units of alcohol in a day is known to negatively affect the quality of our deep sleep and therefore recovery from physical training.

Find your own balance

The information above can prove extremely challenging to most dancers (creatives).  Those who are full-time at the highest level have the challenges of travel and changing time zones; whereas those who have shared daytime priorities such as work before or after training could “run out of hours in the day” for sleep.

It is also known that some can function on less rest than others. Measuring this need is nearly impossible but your body will be showing you the signs, if you are listening to it closely. Recurring injury and long standing health issues are usually a good indication of a lack of quality rest.

The important message to take home is that we must recognize that our bodies need sleep. If you are currently operating at a level of performance that you’re happy with, then you may be getting enough. But the chances are higher that there is room for improvement, and Sleep is one of the most important elements in your training program that needs to be fed and improved on. Find the balance that works for you.

Thanks to those who have given feedback on what they would like advice on. Keep it coming, and we will strive to cover as much of it as possible over the coming weeks and months.

Cover photo by Stevenson