Here is a pretty comprehensive look at what sleep does for you, what might keep you from getting your best rest, and some habits to put into place to allow you to push off into dreamland more easily, courtesy of Dr. Trevor Cates. Remember, it takes weeks for new behaviors to become habits, so if it’s too big of a change, start and keep up as best you can, but keep your 5 steps on hand to remind you.
“Are you tossing and turning at night and missing out on your beauty sleep?
If so, you’re not alone… According to the National Sleep Foundation’s poll, 48% of Americans have occasional insomnia and 22% experience sleeplessness most nights. Interestingly, women are…more likely to report insomnia than men, and people over age 65 are more likely to complain of insomnia than younger people.
Is “beauty sleep” a myth?
No, it’s not a myth! We need consistent high quality sleep for many reasons, including looking and feeling more vibrant (and thus more beautiful).
If you suffer with sleep problems, you’re more likely to have: fatigue, moodiness, irritability, lack of concentration, low motivation, poorer overall health, more missed workdays and a greater risk for depression. Sleep is essential for helping us energize, manage stress, stay focused and positive, ward off infections, and age gracefully.
How is sleep so important?
Each night we’re designed to go thru 5 stages of sleep (stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM), and one sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes. Each stage has its purpose and it varies a bit from person to person, but we usually go through about 5 cycles per night.
During our deepest levels of sleep (stages 3 and 4), our bodies release growth hormone (GH). One of the many things that GH does is helps repair our body’s tissue from all the insults and injuries that might have occurred during the day before. Deep sleep is also a time for our organ systems such as our digestive system to take a break and when our immune system and skin repairs.
What is beauty sleep?
Because of the changes in hormones during deep sleep cycles, such as the increase in Growth Hormone, your body has a chance to restore itself. We also have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and higher levels of our sleep hormone melatonin at night. All three of these changes assist with graceful aging.
Also, while you’re sleeping, you perspire and moisture can to go back in and rehydrate your skin. Because of this, the skincare products you apply at night before sleep can be particularly helpful for rehydration and anti-aging effects.
During the night, your skin isn’t getting any sun exposure so it’s a great time for repair. And, gravity is not pulling on you and creating more wrinkles and sagging. In addition, because you’re lying flat, there is increased blood flow to your skin at night.
How do you know if you are getting a good night’s sleep?
Ideally, you want to wake without an alarm clock. If you wake at the same time every morning, it programs your internal clock to adjust your sleep cycles so you can wake up without hitting snooze. Ultimately, you will feel refreshed when you wake up after about 7 – 8 hours of sleep.
What is the #1 contributor of poor sleep?
Emotional upset, such as feeling stressed and anxious, is the #1 contributor in not getting into rejuvenating deep sleep. Doing stress management exercises can help you get into the restorative stages of sleep.
How do I naturally improve my restorative beauty sleep?
Step 1. Finish up tasks so you feel comfortable letting them go until tomorrow. If you have several things lingering, just make a list and agree it can wait until tomorrow. You should do this at least 60 – 90 minutes before bedtime so you have time for the following steps.
Step 2. Turn off electronics – computers, cell phones, ipads, TVs, etc. and dim your lights. This change in light exposure will help signal your brain to start producing melatonin, the hormone we need for maintaining high quality sleep.
Step 3. Enjoy a beauty ritual – including removing makeup, brushing teeth, flossing, applying face treatments, and whatever else you need to do to prepare yourself for bed. See this as a pampering process. (Tip: Washing your face and body before bed helps hydrate your skin. But, since water has a high ph, be sure to end with an mildly acidic skincare product to restore your skin’s ideal ph and ensure a night of skin repair.)
Step 4. Have some relaxation time. Take a bath with Epsom salt and a few drops of lavender essential oil or practice meditation, gratitude journal writing, or other relaxation techniques. One reason baths are great — when you get out, it creates a change in body temperature from hot to cooler, which helps signal your brain to release melatonin.
Step 5. Ensure your bedroom is a comfortable cool temperature and turn out the lights so its pitch black. Light is one of the biggest factors in prohibiting people from being able to sleep because it prevents melatonin production at night. (Tip: Best room temperature for optimal sleeping is somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees).
And, here are a few more important tips…
If you still can’t sleep, try guided imagery, progressive relaxation, counting techniques and other practices to release anxiety and ease you into sleep. Also, try adding some background noise, such as by running a wave sound machine or fan.
Ensure you have a mattress and pillow that provides good support and keeps your body in proper alignment as well as bedding that is soft and welcoming.
Avoid alcohol and sugar within an hour of bedtime and caffeine after lunchtime. They’re dehydrating and can interfere with sleep cycles.
Exercise regularly, but not within 5 – 6 hours of bedtime.
If you’re a bedtime reader, read printed materials or get a shield that goes across your kindle / reader that shifts the light to a more sleep-friendly version.
Enjoy a cup of herbal tea an hour or two before bedtime. Herbal teas containing hops, passionflower, lemon balm, wild oats, chamomile or valerian can help promote relaxation.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day/night to support your body’s circadian rhythm, and set up enough time for 7 – 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Important Note about Melatonin: Many people are popping melatonin like it’s a simple supplement. Melatonin is a hormone, so be careful with supplementation! Most melatonin sold is in over-dosage amounts. If you do need extra sleep support, melatonin is a circadian rhythm changer and can help reset your internal clock, especially after a time change or travel. The more appropriate dose for people who need the extra support is only 0.5 – 1 mg.
To give it time to kick in, take it 60 – 90 minutes before bedtime. It’s only for occasional use, so please don’t take it every day and ensure you’re getting it from a high quality source. Otherwise, you’ll create more imbalances and have more sleep problems.
I hope these steps and tips help you achieve the best beauty sleep. Sweet dreams!”
-Dr. Trevor Cates is a licensed Naturopathic Physician. Dr. Cates is passionate about helping others to live balanced and fulfilled lives.