Your Best Body: Take a Nap

Published in the February/March 2014 issue.

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If you’re feeling fatigued after class and still have a day of rehearsal ahead, a nap may be your best bet. But just how many winks should you get? Experts say the length of the nap depends on what you’re doing next.

If you’re heading into technique class:
10–20 minutes. Squeeze in a power nap for a quick boost of energy. At this length, you won’t enter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, so you’ll hit the barre feeling especially alert.

If you need to recall tricky choreography: 60 minutes. Though you may feel a bit drowsy after an hour-long nap, this amount is best when you’ll need a sharp memory. During the slow-wave portion of this sleep, memory information is transferred from the brain’s hippocampus to the neocortex.

If new work is being set on your company: 90 minutes. The extra time includes a combination of light and deep sleep stages, which preps you for more creative and process-oriented work. You’ll complete a full sleep cycle, so you won’t feel groggy when experimenting with new movement.

If you can’t make it home for an afternoon nap, that’s okay. The dancers’ lounge or dressing room at your studio actually may be better for napping than your bedroom’s pillow-top mattress. In fact, researchers recommend resting in a slightly upright position to avoid slipping into deep sleep. Reclining on a couch or lounge chair are both good choices.

And despite what you may think, catching Z’s isn’t for the lazy. A recent poll found that those who engaged in rigorous exercise were more likely to nap in the next 24 hours than those who hadn’t.



PMS Power Foods
Feeling bloated or cranky? Stock your kitchen each month with these simple, healthy foods to combat common premenstrual symptoms:

Symptom:
Moodiness

Solution: 2 oz sliced turkey

Why It Works: The tryptophan in turkey helps keep serotonin levels in check to ease mood swings.

Symptom: Bloating

Solution: 1 cup spinach
Why It Works: It’s packed with magnesium, which helps the body get rid of excess fluid.

Symptom: Fatigue

Solution: 1 slice whole-grain bread

Why It Works: The complex carbs and B vitamins offer long-lasting energy.

Symptom: Cramps    

Solution: 1–2 tbsp flaxseed

Why It Works: The natural omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation and stop the body from creating chemicals that worsen contractions.



Chocolate for Your Abs
This Valentine’s Day, be sure to eat an extra chocolate—or two. Recent research published in the journal Nutrition found that adolescents who eat more chocolate have less abdominal fat and a lower body mass index overall, regardless of factors like exercise and fruit and vegetable consumption. That’s one more reason to treat yourself.



Dancers’ Night Out!
Spending time with friends is more than just fun—it could keep you healthier, too. Research shows that those with active social lives suffer from fewer colds, have lower blood pressure and are diagnosed with fewer mental illnesses. So while it may be tempting to veg out and stretch in front of the TV once rehearsal wraps, consider grabbing coffee or checking out that new art exhibit with friends.



Toss Out Your Tennis Ball
If you’ve got a kink in your calf muscle, you’re likely to reach for that tennis ball at the bottom of your dance bag. But some stubborn knots require a little more intensive care. RumbleRoller’s new Beastie ball in X-Firm is a great portable option for self-massage. The small sphere is covered in spiky nubs designed to give you the deepest massage possible, and unlike a tennis ball, it won’t lose its shape or get mushy—no matter how much pressure you apply. Plus, it comes with a detachable, snap-in base so it won’t roll out from under you while you’re targeting that pesky pressure point. For a softer version, try the Original Beastie ball. Get both at rumbleroller.com.



Eat This or That?
Trying to choose between two tasty meal choices? Food comparison website TwoFoods.com can help you weigh options—like a Greek salad or a turkey sandwich—in a flash. Just type in two foods for an easy-to-read, side-by-side breakdown of the calories, carbs, fat and protein per serving for each. It even has nutritional information from major chain restaurants—handy if you’re on tour.