Beauty Sleep: Fact or Fiction?
You have no doubt heard your entire life that getting eight hours of quality sleep a night is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. It’s true. There is a lot that happens while you sleep, and while you are in dreamland, your body is hard at work restoring and repairing itself from all the daily stress that it endures. While there are plenty of legitimate reasons to make getting a restful night of sleep a priority, one that might make you wake up and take notice is wrapped up in the age-old phrase “beauty sleep.”
In days of yore, it was thought that if you were still awake past midnight, you would not awake with a fresh face and lively spirit. Granted, not all of us are up at the crack of dawn anymore, and different lifestyles mean different sleep patterns, but the logic behind the sentiment still stands. Not getting adequate sleep can affect how you look and how beautiful you feel. In fact, science has even proven it to be true. It appears that our sleep-worshiping ancestors were actually onto something.
Science has shown that sleep is necessary for cell renewal and regeneration. This includes the cells in your skin. Your body needs adequate amounts of rest, to the tune of 7-10 hours per night, to fully recuperate from the day’s events. Without this recovery time, the cells in your body cannot effectively do their jobs, and this leads to bodily stress that you can both see and feel. Let’s take a closer look at just how sleep affects beauty and how it is more than just skin deep.
The Cortisol Sleep Connection
The effects of a lack of sleep on your health and appearance all begin with one little word: “cortisol.” Your body perceives inadequate sleep as a type of distress signal, and in response to the perceived stress, it responds by producing the stress hormone cortisol. You might be familiar with cortisol and its effects on metabolism and weight gain, but did you know that this hormone also plays a major role in premature aging and loss of skin elasticity?
Cortisol damages the collagen in your skin, which is the supportive structure that keeps you skin smooth and plump. Collagen is also found in all the connective tissue in your body and works as a type of glue that holds everything together. If you have ever experienced a period of sleeplessness or insomnia, then you know that the effects go deeper than a case of the midday crankiness and headache. At some point, you begin to feel the physical stress caused by sleepless nights, usually in the form of inflammation, stiff joints and an overall achy body. These are consequences of your collagen matrix being harmed by excess cortisol.
Collagen production begins to decline naturally with age starting in your late twenties to early thirties. By the time you turn forty, new collagen production has all but come to a screeching halt. This partially explains why sleepless nights look differently on you when you are in thirties and beyond, compared to how they looked back in your twenties. To make matters worse, cortisol also causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing the blood and oxygen flow to the skins surface. The result? Skin that looks dull, dry and lifeless.
If you were to look closely at your skin through a microscope, you would see a structure that resembles a brick wall. A structure of tiny cells that are held together by a thin fatty layer. This layer is especially important to skin health because it is what provides a protective barrier for your skin.
While you sleep, the cells in your body, including your skin cells, undergo a process called mitosis. Mitosis is the biological term for cell renewal through the process of cellular division. Research shows that quality sleep is directly connected to proper cell cycle functioning and cellular immunity, to the point that the disruption of cellular division caused by inadequate sleep can possibly be connected to premature aging and even some chronic diseases.
When the protective, fatty layer that forms the barrier for your skin breaks down because of lack of sleep, your skin can become dry, overly sensitive and inflamed. Since sleep is so important for skin health, the hours that you spend in restful slumber are perfect for supporting cellular renewal through a healing and restorative nighttime skin care routine. Products that supply antioxidant ingredients, along with other beneficial ingredients such as retinol, collagen and hyaluronic acid, will help to strengthen the restorative processes that occur in your skin while you sleep.
If the scientific proof that beauty sleep really does exist isn’t enough to motivate you, let me entice you with a few more skin and beauty reasons to get a little more shut eye, starting tonight.
- If you suffer from any existing skin conditions, lack of sleep is likely to make them even worse. The inflammatory response associated with cortisol production can show itself as increased acne flare-ups, dermatitis, rosacea and increased skin sensitivity.
- Your immune system takes a punch too. The added inflammation in your body unbalances your natural immune system. This reaction can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, the process inhibits your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness and slow healing wounds. On the other hand, the inflammation can result in a hyperactive immune system, where the body essentially begins attacking itself. This is the mechanisms behind autoimmune disorders and skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
- Your body needs down time to rebalance its levels of hydration. Without adequate sleep you, and your skin, will suffer the effects of nighttime dehydration, such as dry, shallow looking skin, noticeable fine lines and the dreaded puffy undereye circles.
What is the solution to all of this? Well, the answer itself is simple. Make it a priority to get in seven to nine hours of sleep every night. However, if you are suffering from sleep deprivation, seven to nine hours might sound more like a fairy tale than your reality. Even if it feels hopeless, it is important to know that all is not lost. No matter what you are going through that is the root cause of your sleepless nights, there is hope and there is a solution. It all begins with identifying the cause and developing a regular nighttime routine. Here are some steps that you can take to make healthy beauty sleep a regular part of your nighttime routine.
First, if your sleeplessness is chronic, you should consider speaking to a medical professional. There are physical and mental conditions that can make getting a solid night’s sleep difficult at best. Whatever the cause of your sleeplessness, you do not need to suffer through another night. Make yourself a priority and speak to someone about your health issues and lifestyle concerns. Lack of sleep doesn’t just affect the reflection that you see in the mirror every morning, it affects your entire body. You are worth the effort of discovering the cause of your sleeplessness and developing a solid nighttime routine.
- If there is no underlying physical or mental condition that is causing your sleepless nights, it is time to look at what is going on in your world that is keeping your awake. Are you stressed or excited about something? Do you have a hard time quieting your mind down? Have you recently moved and are not quite comfortable in your new surroundings? The list of potential causes is endless, and only you know the circumstances in your environment that might be contributing to sleep disturbances. Be honest with yourself about what could be the cause. It is the first step in building healthy sleep habits.
- Try keeping a journal or daily blog. Sometimes, we can’t quiet our minds at night simply because we have not had the opportunity to say all that is on our minds. Writing in a journal or recording your thoughts in some manner, is a way of getting the words out of your head, so that you can get some peace and quiet.
- The same theory applies when you have a never-ending list of things to do running through your head. I have been guilty more than once of falling asleep easily, then waking up middle of the night ridden with anxiety over things that need to be done. By the time I quiet my mind again, it is nearly time to get up and start the day. Keep a journal, pad of paper or whatever device you use to keep lists, next to your bed. When these sudden obsessions about things that need to be done strike, write them down and be as thorough as possible. Then put the list aside, affirm to yourself that you know what needs to be done and it will be addressed in the morning, and then close your eyes and relax.
- Make sure your bedroom environment supports healthy sleep. Keep electronics and harsh lights out of the bedroom. Make sure that your mattress is comfortable and sleep with a warm blanket in a slightly cool room.
- Try adding white noise while you sleep. You don’t even have to go out and purchase a white noise machine. There are some great sleep apps available that you can run while you are sleeping. Ok, for this purpose it is acceptable to have one electronic device in the bedroom as long as you aren’t scrolling through click bait at 2 am.
- Allow yourself some luxury. Purchase the expensive sheet set, spritz a little of your favorite, relaxing scent on your pillows, take a nice warm bath right before bed. Develop a routine of small, pampering activities that will signal your brain that it is time to wind down and rest.
- Take care of your body throughout the day. Drink plenty of water all day long, avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 pm, get regular exercise and don’t eat big meals late at night. If you need a late-night snack, make it something light that is easily digested.
- Go to bed at the same time every night, even on nights when you don’t have to get up early the next day.
- Set your alarm for when you really need to get up, not for when you need to wake up in order to hit the snooze button three times. All you are doing in this situation is robbing yourself of a few more minutes of solid sleep for ineffective broken sleep.
- To ease the effect on your skin, try developing a habit of sleeping on your back, or on smooth, high quality sheets that are not prone to wrinkling. Pressing your face against a pillow, or having a fabric crease pressed into your cheek for hours can damage your delicate facial skin.
- Sleep with your head slightly elevated to prevent water from pooling in the undereye area. Also, if you suffer from circulatory issues, elevate your feet with pillows to encourage better circulation.
- Don’t underestimate the power of good nighttime skin care routine. Before you go to bed, you should thoroughly, but gently, cleanse your skin to remove makeup, dead skin cells and pollutants from the skin’s surface. Follow up with a soothing toner and a restorative night cream. While you are sleeping is the ideal time to use certain products, such as those containing retinol, because they can facilitate the cell renewal that happens while you are sleeping.
When you take good care of your skin, and make quality sleep a priority, it shows in how you look and feel. While beauty sleep might be an outdated term, the concept is as important as ever. Getting regular quality sleep will leave you ready to greet the morning with fresh attitude, healthy skin and a natural glow of beauty, both inside and out.