Sleep is a major factor influencing your over-all health and the health of your skin. According to researchers at Cornell University, there are many types of sleep problems - some estimates say at least 84 disorders of sleeping and waking interfere with quality of life and personal health, and endanger public health. These problems range from staying awake or staying with a regular sleep/wake cycle, sleepwalking, bedwetting, nightmares, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, snoring, and sleep apnea syndrome.
Why is sleep important?
If you do not get adequate sleep, you will quickly notice feeling rundown, tired, irritable and have difficulties with concentrating or just staying awake. Similarly, but less obviously, your reaction time and coordination will be reduced, and your memory and mathematical abilities will be compromised.
It’s not just the length of time you’re in bed that counts, but the quality of sleep you get while lying there. Frequent interruptions of sleep can undermine daytime energy as much as no sleep at all. You can improve the quality of your sleep by establishing regular sleeping patterns, always going to bed and getting up around the same time everyday. Changing your schedule on the weekends so you go to bed and wake up extremely late disrupts your body’s clock, and once your biological rhythms are disturbed, you are more likely to feel stress, resulting in irritability, exhaustion, and weakened immune response.
If you continually suffer from serious sleep deprivation, the results can be severe. Long-term effects of sleep deficiency include:
diabetes (disrupted insulin production),
weakened immune system (altered white blood cell production),
signs of premature aging of the skin (lines, wrinkles and dark circle under the eyes),
obesity (decreased production of leptin, the chemical that makes you feel full), and
cognitive problems (inability to store and maintain long-term memories).
In addition, you will look tired and your skin will reflect your lack of sleep by looking dull, drawn, 'stressed', and the appearance of lines and wrinkles will be accelerated. You may get ‘bags’ under your eyes or even develop dark circles under your eyes. These are classic symptoms of inadequate sleep, stress and the urgent need for you to get some help.
How much sleep do I need?
Information published by Princeton University suggests, that once you reach your late teens, your sleep needs are equivalent to those of an adult – about 8 or 9 hours. However, individual sleep needs vary from 6 to 10 hours, so make sure you know how much sleep you need to function efficiently. Uninterrupted sleep is important in order to experience periods of rapid eye movement (REM), which are necessary for learning, problem solving, and storing memories.
Irrespective of what the cause, lack of sleep can affect just about every aspect of life and health. Your skin, for example, will look much more relaxed, healthier and younger following a good nights sleep. Similarly, your tolerance to aggravation is increased and therefore your stress levels are not as high. This too is reflected by your skin and facial expressions.
Information from the University of Maryland Medical Center and Princeton University suggests the following 'Sleep Hygiene Tips':
Don’t go to bed hungry or full. Hunger and indigestion hinder sleep.
stablish a regular time for going to bed and getting up in the morning and stick to it even on weekends and during vacations. This sets up your body’s clock/rhythm.
at light meals and schedule dinner four to five hours before bedtime. A light snack before bedtime can help sleep, but a large meal may have the opposite effect. Eating lightly to induce sleep. Although you shouldn’t eat too much right before sleep, certain foods promote sleep. Such foods include the amino acid L-tryptophan, found in milk, turkey, and tuna; and carbohydrates, such as bread and cereal. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar.
Exercise before dinner. A low point in energy occurs a few hours after exercise; sleep will then come more easily. Exercising close to bedtime, however, may increase alertness.
Get regular exercise (3-4 times per week), but not right before you plan to go to sleep – mid-afternoon is best.
Use the bed for sleep and sexual relations only, not for reading, watching television, or working; excessive time in bed seems to fragment sleep.
Create the right environment. Make sure your room is dark and quiet, and the right temperature. Most experts agree cooler temperatures work best. If you’re bothered by noise, wear earplugs or use a fan to create white noise.
Don’t nap. But if you have to, do it before 3 pm and for less than an hour.
Reduce stress. If you’re worried about getting your work done, make a to-do list for the next day to assure yourself you have enough time to accomplish what needs to get done. Once the chores that cause you stress are down on paper, your mind is free to relax and think more pleasant thoughts.
Read a book, or some other calm activity that relaxes you. Creating a relaxing ritual can help your body slow down in preparation for sleep.
Practice relaxation techniques before bedtime. Deep breathing and visualization techniques can help you relax and facilitate sleep.
Avoid sleep-disturbing substances like alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol creates the illusions of good sleep but the architecture of sleep is affected adversely. Sleep is fragmented with deep sleep initially and a rebound of REM sleep later. Caffeine is a stimulant and reaches its peak effect in the first hour but with a half-life elimination of 3-7 hours. Caffeine is a potent sleep inhibitor and it increases sleep latency, night waking, decreases total sleep time, decreases slow-wave sleep, impairs overall sleep quality.
Take a hot bath about an hour and a half to two hours before bedtime. This alters the body's core temperature rhythm and helps people fall asleep more easily and more continuously. (Taking a bath shortly before bed increases alertness.)
Do something relaxing in the half-hour before bedtime. Reading, meditation, and a leisurely walk are all appropriate activities.
Keep the bedroom relatively cool and well ventilated.
Do not look at the clock. Obsessing over time will just make it more difficult to sleep.
Spend a half hour in the sun each day. The best time is early in the day. (Take precautions against overexposure to sunlight by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen.)
Avoid fluids just before bedtime so that sleep is not disturbed by the need to urinate.
Avoid caffeine in the hours before sleep.
If one is still awake after 15 or 20 minutes go into another room, read or do a quiet activity using dim lighting until feeling very sleepy. (Don't watch television or use bright lights.)
If distracted by a sleeping bed partner, moving to the couch or a spare bed for a couple of nights might be helpful.
Benefit to your Skin
The benefits of good quality sleep on your over-all health is immense, however the benefits on your skin are also remarkable and very noticeable. For example, sleep relaxes the facial muscles and that helps to smooth wrinkles and lines on your face. In addition, the lying-down position is opposite to the daily action of gravity on the skin. It’s not pulling down when you’re lying down. This too helps in reducing the gravitational stress on your facial skin and aids in the reduction of lines and wrinkles on your face.
Similarly, the lack of facial expressions during the night allows the dermal layers of your skin to rejuvenate. You may have noticed that after a good night’s sleep, you actually look younger and your skin has less pronounced lines and wrinkles.
Danny Siegenthaler is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and together with his wife Susan, a medical herbalist and Aromatherapist, they have created Natural Skin Care Products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products to share their 40 years of combined expertise with you.