The sleep-skin connection

Adequate sleep improves our efficiency, helps maintain good health, and adds radiance to our skin

Woman sleepingWe all know how we feel the next day when we are unable to sleep properly the previous night. We feel lousy, drowsy and tired. Our sleep cycle not only affects how we feel and how we perform, but how we look as well. Regular sleep patterns are essential for great-looking skin and a healthy vibrant appearance. Along with good nutrition and exercise, eight hours of sleep every night helps improve the texture and luminosity of our skin.

Sleep and skin

It is during the night that our skin restores itself from the effects of daily stress. When we do not get the required sleep, our skin suffers. This is especially noticeable in the fragile skin under the eyes. The under-eye skin is almost 50 per cent thinner than the skin on the face. Sleepless nights leave behind fine lines, dark circles and puffy bags. Cosmetic treatments can soften the effects of sleep deprivation but preventive medicine is the best cure. Eye treatments are limited in their ability and cannot reverse stress marks that lack of sleep cause on the skin.

Sleep experts say that we need eight hours of sleep every night—the best time being between 10pm and 3am. However, the latest research shows that men and women average six hours and forty minutes of sleep during the week and seven hours on  weekends. This means we generally sleep a lot less than is required. If you can’t sleep well naturally, there are some things you can do to sleep well.

Sleep inducers

Sometimes you need to make an effort to ensure that you have a peaceful and sufficient sleep. Here are some things that will help:

Serene ambience: Often the surrounding noise is responsible for a disturbed sleep. So, the first thing you do is to ensure that you create a serene atmosphere conducive for sleeping. For that, eliminate disturbing noises like that of the clock, fan or AC. Any noise in the bedroom itself should be low and consistent. If you live in a noisy neighbourhood, wear earplugs.

Computers and televisions should ideally be left out of the bedroom. Watching television before you fall asleep will over-stimulate your brain leading to a disturbed sleep. Keep your room dark and cool. A bright room can be darkened using opaque fabric for curtains on your windows. If that is not possible, use eyeshades.

Pillow talk: Even your pillow may affect the quality of your sleep. Use natural-fill pillows such as those with soft, fine feathers as they are most adjustable. If you suffer from back pain, put a pillow between your knees for a more comfortable sleep. Get a queen-sized mattress if you don’t sleep alone. Give yourself room to move.

Routine rest: Establish a regular sleep routine. Our bodies work better when they are set on a regular schedule of sleep and wakefulness. Plan a time to wake up every morning, no matter what time you go to bed the night before.

Relaxing measures: Having a relaxing, warm bath before you go to bed will help induce sleep. Get a guided mediation CD that will lull you into peaceful sleep. Counting your blessings [no matter how small] evokes feelings of satisfaction which help you sleep better. You can also try some aroma therapy to initiate slumber. Sprinkle a little lavender oil on a pillow close to where you sleep or put a few drops on a cotton bud and place close by.

If you fret during the night or make the next day’s to-do list in your head, write your tasks and worries down so you can deal with them in the morning. You’ll be amazed at how well this works.

Sleep demons

Now that you know how to help prepare for a peaceful sleep, learn to eliminate habits that do the opposite. Avoid napping during the day; a fifteen-minute nap can be a pick-me-up but anything longer will interfere with a good night’s sleep. Stimulants such as, cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine [coffee and cola], will activate your system and keep you awake if consumed four or five hours before going to bed.

Sleepy notes

In an interesting study, Alex Gardner of the British Psychological Society and emeritus professor of dermatology Ronnie Marks of the University of Wales found that sleep deprivation does not alter our physical appearance, as is widely believed. This means that the concept of beauty sleep is a myth. According to them, people with disturbed sleep are convinced that their looks are affected by their lack of sleep even though they look the same as when they were rested. It’s actually in their minds and not their skin. The researchers concluded that sleep affects our self esteem; good sleep makes us feel better about ourselves while bad sleep lowers our self-esteem.

In another study, professor Francesco Cappuccio of Warwick Medical School found that sleep is directly linked with weight. He found that sleep loss is likely to increase our body mass index [BMI] and our waist circumference. The risk of becoming obese gets almost doubled. Conversely, a good sleep can help us lose weight. So, if you want to lose weight, sleep well.

—Team CW

This was first published in the April 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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