We’ve all been there before: We lay in bed worrying about our kids, our job, or our finances. When we do finally fall asleep, we wake shortly after with further worries. Suddenly, it’s 6:00 a.m. and we struggle out of bed to face the day with dark circles under our eyes, a sallow complexion, and about as much energy as a damp rag.
Sleep is an important aspect of everyday life that many of us take for granted. As influential as it is on how we feel and function, it is perhaps more influential on how we look the next morning and throughout the day.
It’s easy to understand how sleep affects our energy levels, but why and how does sleep affect the way our skin looks in the morning? Rebecca S. Robbins, co-author of the book Sleep for Success!, explains that during a good night’s sleep, your body works to remove dead blood cells and other toxins that can build up in the skin. If your sleep cycle is less than ideal, your body doesn’t get the chance to “flush the system”, so to speak, and you wake with skin imbalances, dehydration, redness, wrinkles, and even breakouts.
But it’s not just about the quantity of sleep you get each night. Rather, it’s about the quality. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. explains, “You’re likely better off getting high-quality sleep for 6.5 hours than low-quality sleep for a longer period of time.”
With proper sleep being so important to the health and appearance of our skin, how can you ensure that you get the beauty sleep you need each night? These simple steps will help.
1. Practice deep breathing to reduce stress
After a long, stressful day, we expect to fall asleep quickly. But often, the stresses of the day keep our mind running and prevent us from drifting off—even when we’re exhausted. This can only add to our anxiety and serve to keep us awake well past when we should be asleep.
Enter the “4-7-8” method. The “4-7-8” method, endorsed by Andrew Weil, M.D., is a breathing technique that puts you in the right frame of mind and body to help you fall asleep faster. The “4-7-8” breathing method gives your mind something to focus on other than the stresses of the day and slows your heart rate. It also increases the amount of oxygen in your blood stream and releases harmful carbon dioxide that can be toxic to your skin.
Here’s how you do it:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth making a whooshing sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth making a whooshing sound for a count of eight.
- That’s one cycle. Repeat steps 2-5 three more times for a total of four cycles.
2. Use aromatherapy to wake up energized
The scent of lavender can help improve sleep patterns. According to a 2005 study conducted by Wesleyan University, lavender had a four fold-effect on test subjects:
- It increased the percentage of deep, or slow-wave (SWS), sleep in both men and women.
- It increased stage 2 (light) sleep.
- It decreased rapid-eye movement (REM).
- It decreased the amount of time to reach wake after first falling asleep.
Overall, subjects reported more energy in the morning after lavender exposure. The study thus concluded that the smell of lavender serves as a mild sedative and can be used to promote deep sleep.
There are two ways you can use aromatherapy to get a better night’s sleep. The simplest way is to scent your room with lavender and get in the habit of breathing deeply before lights out. Another option is to get a bottle of lavender oil and breathe in the aroma for two full minutes at three, 10-minute intervals before bedtime.
3. Turn off electronics one hour before bed
Electronics such as tablets, laptops, smartphones, TV, and even some lightbulbs (e.g., LED) emit blue light which has been shown to delay the release of melatonin and keep you feeling awake long into the night.
Dr. Nakamori Suganuma of Osaka University, conducted a study in 2007 on a total of 5,875 Japanese internet and television users. His findings, published in the journal Sleep And Biological Rhythms, suggest that, “While heavy computer and television use before bedtime has a small effect on sleep duration, it may have a significant effect on sleep quality.”
Here are a few suggestions for alternatives to using electronics before bed:
- Read a book or magazine in bed.
- Meditate or perform some gentle yoga to wind down.
- Replace bedroom light bulbs such as LED and other energy-efficient designs with bulbs that emit a more natural white light.
- Use candles in the bedroom before bed.
4. Reduce your bedroom temperature
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the temperature in the bedroom should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for an optimal night’s sleep. “Why so cold?” you may ask. Because your body temperature needs to decrease. Researchers believe this occurs so that the body can redirect energy that would normally be used for maintaining temperature into other repair and rejuvenation functions.
Temperatures above or below the suggested range can lead to restlessness throughout the night and can also affect the quality of sleep.
Though you may set your thermostat in the 70s during the day, turn it down at night to help your bedroom reach the suggested range. If you’re worried about the expense and your thermostat is programmable, set the temperature to the suggested range during bedtime. Then set the thermostat to allow your house to return to a more “normal” temperature early in the morning.
Sleep your way to healthy skin
Sleep is our body’s way of repairing and rejuvenating its systems—internal organs, brain, and skin just to name a few. Without this necessary sleep duration or quality, our body doesn’t perform the way it should and we can start to feel, and look, less than our best. But you can work to look and feel great by taking the above steps to get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day.