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How Too Little Sleep Can Mess with Your Skin, Body - And Day

08 Nov, 2016
By BeYou[tiful]
Sleep is one of the best things we can do for our health, our skin and our waistline, yet chronic sleep deprivation is a global problem, especially for women. Here's some food for thought we urge you to sleep on.

A truckload of research has shown that the optimal amount of sleep for our bodies to regenerate and repair is between seven and nine hours a night if we're aged between 18 and 64 (a bit more if you're younger, and a bit less if you're older). We hear you snorting... when's the last time you woke up feeling refreshed and not wanting to hit the snooze button (repeatedly!)?

It's a cruel reality that women are more chronically sleep-deprived than men, and studies show the number of women averaging six to seven hours a night is rising. It's not only quantity that's important either. Quality has a big influence on our health and our looks.
Why are we sleeping less?

Blame technology! Yes, we’re talking to you with your iPad. Whether you’re streaming the latest episode of Stranger Things, doing your online shopping, or catching up with your BFFS in a group chat, the blue light emitted by your device is going to keep you awake, as it counters the message to your brain to release the sleep hormone melatonin. But if you can’t do without your nightly fix, we have solutions for you below...

The blessing and curse of the connected age is that we have access to our office servers, the internet, etc., at all hours, so it makes it easier for us (and it’s often expected of us) to take our work home, and many of us are working for at least a couple of hours after dinner.

Sleep on it. If you think that everything slows down while we’re catching our zzzs, think again. There’s only a drop of about 10 percent in our metabolic rate during sleep. So, what on earth is our body doing?

It’s working hard to repair itself. The repair process happens during repeated cycles of REM sleep during the night. But it takes about three to four hours to get into the first REM cycle, and if we don’t sleep enough, or wake up frequently, we either never get into the full cycle, or we cut it short.

While Liam Hemsworth is paying you a bedroom visit, this is what happens: During deep sleep, tissue-repairing growth hormone production is amped so weakened muscle fibres and exercise-‘damaged’ fibres are repaired. The night-time recovery process makes us stronger and leaner, says Stanford University exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist, Dr Stacy Sims.

Levels of growth hormone, necessary for skin and skin cell repair, peak during sleep, which helps maintain collagen and fight wrinkles. Blood circulation to our skin also increases, helping to eliminate impurities and boost nutrient absorption.
What are we doing when we sabotage our sleep?

We get hungrier. Chronic sleep deprivation leads to an increase in appetite (and weight gain), shown by several studies. Our bodies prompt us to consume more kilojoules (to try keep us awake and chugging along) and our ability to recognise a full stomach is shut down.
We get depressed. Our cortisol levels rise, and so does or blood pressure. There’s increasing evidence that poor sleep causes chronic low-grade inflammation, which is linked to many of these diseases. All these factors can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
We risk gaining weight. Another study shows that consistent bed and wake times are linked to less body fat among young women.
Related Article. 9 Food Must Haves for Amazing Skin
It affects our looks. Our skin has its own rhythms. During the day, skin is occupied with protecting itself from UV rays, pollution and environmental aggressors. At night, it works to repair the damage incurred in daylight hours and to regenerate and replenish its reserves. These actions are vital as skin cells can then produce more collagen and elastin and they multiply to rebuild the outer protective horny layer. So, in a way, our skin never rests.
When we’re young, it manages this continuous labour well, but with time, the signs of fatigue start showing. And if we’re sleep deprived, it doesn’t matter how young we are, these vital functions aren’t happening, and our skin is ageing before its time.
An Estée Lauder-commissioned study found that skin recovery in sound sleepers was 30 percent higher than their restless counterparts, and good quality sleep positively affects skin appearance almost twice as much as a poor night's sleep.
Maximise your beauty sleep
Besides your usual cleansing and moisturising routine to get rid of the day's grime and make-up, it’s time to bring out the big guns of beauty to maximise your skin’s nighttime repair...
  • Smooth on a concentrated night repair product. BioNike Defence Elixage Nuit Night Cream, Olay Regenerist Night Cream, Clarins Multi Active Night Cream.
  • Once or twice a week, apply a nutrient-rich mask. Skin Republic CoQ10 Caviar Repairing and Restoring Mask.
  • Use a humidifier. The moistened air will help your skin and the white noise will help you sleep.
The morning after...
Even if you rest your face on a clean pillowcase, your skin still gets "dirty" overnight. Washing with a moisturising cleanser will remove the impurities that result from natural cell metabolism and hydrate your skin. And apply a lip balm to dry lips. Try Clarins Daily Energiser Lovely Lip Balm or Eucerin Intensive Lip Balm.
To de-puff eyes, keep a caffeinated eye gel in the fridge and dabbing it on first thing in the morning. The coldness and caffeine constrict bloodvessels, erasing the puff pretty much instantly.
Sleep sanctuary: how to get your good night
Monitor how you sleep with the iTunes app Sleep Cycle downloaded onto your iPhone. Sleep with it on your mattress to monitor your sleep cycle, sleep quality. It even adjusts your wake-up time to wake you softly in your lightest sleep state, close to your alarm time.
Start your wind down early
  • Do some exercise daily (but not too late), so both your body and your mind are tired.
  • Don’t eat too late, and avoid caffeine and alcohol at night, but...
  • Do drink soothing, caffeine-free chamomile or lemon balm tea.
  • Have a warm bath. It’s not only relaxing, you can meditate or let your mind drift and get in the ‘zone’ for sleep. Physiologically, a drop in body temperature after bathing also has a sleep-enducing effect, so it’s especially good for insomniacs. Set the mood by banishing harsh bathroom light. Use an aromatherapy candle (like lavender or camomile). The gentle glow will help to reduce adrenalin levels, turning your bath into a therapeutic treat. Our favourite: Spa-Valous Soy Massage Candle (see more at Use a sleep-enhancing product in your bath such as five drops of Soil Aroma Oil lavender essential oil or Clarins Bain Relax. When you rise from your bath, have a warm towel or pyjamas ready and waiting. Take your time drying off and applying your nourishing creams to face and body.
Now for bed...
  • Set a regular bed time - if you know you have to get up at 6am, make it 10pm.
  • If you have to have a daily dose of screen time, use the free F.lux app from, which adjusts your screen's light (from blue to yellow) according to time of day. Or buy some SleepSpecs, which filter out blue light and help triggermelatonin.
  • Power down an hour before bedtime (set an alarm if you have to).
  • Half an hour before bed, take about 600 mg of magnesium. It has a direct calming effect on the brain and muscles, promoting sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom for sleeping, so no movies or working in bed. Sleep on a bed, in a cool, dark, quiet room.
  • Sniff lavender essential oil or spray some onto your pillow. It’s proven to induce relaxation and helps you nod off.
  • Breathing techniques can also help. How I Learned to Fall Asleep in Under 1 Minute from Byrdie is a compelling first-hand account of a simple technique which could change your go-to-sleep habits for life.
  • Power-down your mind: Lie in bed with your eyes closed. Take deep breaths as you imagine your mind floating down your body to your feet. Now focus on the pinkie toe of your left foot. Envision an on/off switch for this toe and "power it down" as you would a laptop. Move to the next toe and do the same thing. After each toe has been "shut down," let your mind float back up through your feet and legs to your waist. Repeat the exercise, starting with the small toe of your right foot. Continue powering down as your mind floats up through your legs and waist, but this time, imagine your mind floating all the way up to your head.
  • Zzzzz... huh? What’s that? Good night!
Improve your sleep cycles
If you have ever worked your way through a high-intensity interval training class, you will relate to this programme developed by integrative medicine doctor (and self-proclaimed workout junkie) Tiffany Lester, M.D., who uses HITT as a ‘blueprint to help boost the quality of your zzzz’s’. One of the things she teaches is the concept of sleep stages, which she likens to the various phases of a HIIT workout. Find out what sleep stages you should be aiming to maximize each night - and how to train yourself to cycle through them more effectively in Is the Secret to Getting Your Best Sleep Ever All in Treating It Like A HIIT Workout? from Well & Good.

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