Guest post by Julia Merrill, who has written some other great posts on here. You can find another one here.
Medical science has long been aware of the important role that sleep plays in our mental and physical health. There’s no aspect of your health that sleep doesn’t affect, though some aren’t quite as well known or as appreciated as others. For example, did you know that sleep is the secret behind young- and healthy-looking skin? The restorative power of sleep does a number of things for your body, including bolstering the immune system and maintaining a healthy metabolism. It’s also essential for anyone who wants to show the world a youthful and vibrant appearance, since it heals and replenishes skin cells. Restful sleep makes the difference between a healthy glow and a haggard, ashen, worn-down look.
In 2010, the British Medical Journal published a study comparing the appearance of sleep-deprived people with those who got a normal night’s sleep. The subjects who got insufficient sleep were identified as appearing tired and unattractive in comparison with subjects who got a full night’s sleep. The appearance of skin was a key determining factor in how the two groups were described. Clearly, how one sleeps – and how well – are crucial for maintaining healthy, lustrous skin.
Human growth hormone (HGH), a key factor in keeping you looking young later in life, is at its peak during a deep-sleep pattern. HGH levels diminish during adulthood, which is manifested in saggy skin, belly fat, and a slower metabolism. Regular, healthy sleep can restore HGH levels, which keeps you looking young and vibrant.
The right position
Healthy sleep habits are very important and conducive to the production of HGH during the night. Sleep position is one of the most important of all sleep habits. Many doctors contend that nothing beats sleeping on your back. Not only does it prevent wrinkles caused by shoving your face against a pillow for 8 hours or more, it can also prevent the clogged pores and blemishes that stomach sleepers sometimes develop. Sleeping on your back allows your rib cage to expand more, so you’re getting deeper breaths, which is better for your overall health.
Alter your sleep space
A well-prepared sleep environment is key for a restful night’s sleep. Keep the temperature no higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit in a completely darkened space with air that isn’t too dry, which can damage skin. If your bedroom tends to be pretty dried out, consider investing in a humidifier to help keep your dermis from getting parched and scaly. To ensure you fall asleep easily and stay slumbering, make sure all of your electronics are completely powered down (you’d be even better off removing anything with a screen from your bedroom completely), and make sure to address any sneaky sources of light, like the space under the door. If you’re a pajama-wearer, go with cotton, which breathes better than polyester.
Dirt, grease and other substances build up on your face during the day, so spend some time each night giving your face a good cleaning. Make sure all the day’s makeup has been cleaned away with a soft cloth that’s gentle on your skin. It’s easier to apply cleansers and lotions to a well-washed face. You may want to incorporate the application of a facial moisturizer if your face tends to dry out easily, especially during the winter months. If dark circles under the eyes are a problem, apply a cream containing vitamin K and retinol.
Preparing for sleep
Sometimes, working up to a good night’s sleep is necessary, so that you’re getting the deep, REM sleep that keeps your skin looking young. Make sure you go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time every morning to establish a regular and reliable sleep cycle. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants that might keep you tossing and turning well into the night.
Sleep is as important to your skin as it is to every other organ in your body. Sleeping on your back in a cool bedroom with sufficiently moist air can go a long way toward keeping your skin supple, taut and youthful.
Julia Merrill is a retired board certified nurse practitioner. She runs the website BeFriend Your Doc. Julia has written other posts for Look to the Western Sky, such as “Tips for Better Sleep for the Whole Family”.