We’ve all heard of, and probably said the phrase ‘beauty sleep’, but did you know there is actually science behind it?
Poor quality sleep has been shown to increase signs of ageing, disrupt repair of the skin barrier and worsen inflammatory skin conditions. We can also be perceived as less attractive if we sleep less than 8 hours, compared to a full nights rest!
Poor sleep can affect our skin in less direct ways. For example, sleeping less than 7 hours can increase cravings for junk food, and decrease satiety. Have you ever had a poor nights sleep and just can’t stop eating the next day? It can be due to the change in hormones that happens if we cut our sleep short. We know that eating high amounts of sugar and processed foods don’t add any benefit to our skin. If you struggle with food cravings, or the feeling that you can’t stop eating, it might be good to look at how well you’re sleeping.
Not getting enough sleep also affects our immune function and our stress levels, both of which influence the health of our skin.
Our sleep-wake cycle
Our skin follows a 24-hour clock. Depending on the time of day, our skin can have changes in temperature, sebum production, pH and hydration. This is why we have day and night skincare. Shifts in our circadian clock (sleep-wake cycle) can disrupt these functions of the skin, which is why it’s important to stay in a routine.
Melatonin is an important hormone in our sleep-wake cycle. It rises when it gets dark, like the moon, to tell our body to get ready to sleep. Melatonin also has amazing skin benefits. It’s a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect our cells from damage and reduce inflammation. Melatonin helps to protect the skin from UV damage, reduce inflammation of the skin (as seen in acne, eczema and psoriasis) repair the skin barrier and slow the ageing process! So, I bet you want to know how you can support melatonin production? (Keep reading, I’ll let you know)
There is another important hormone in our sleep-wake cycle – cortisol. Cortisol is known as our stress hormone, but in healthy amounts, it rises in the morning like the sun to give us energy for the day. It should start to dip in the afternoon and be at its lowest in the evening. If we are stressed in the evening, it can disrupt melatonin. This can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep at night, you might wake up pretty tired the next day too.
How to support melatonin production:
- Avoid blue-light exposure in the evenings at least 1 hour before bed.
This includes the TV, your phone, laptop or computer. If you have to work late, make sure all your tech is on night mode and you can use blue-light blocking glasses. But the best thing is to avoid altogether. Studies on blue-light exposure in the evenings have found there is a significant reduction in melatonin production, total sleep time is shortened, and sleep quality is reduced due to increased awakenings in the night.
- Make sure your room is pitch black! Blackout blinds can help, or wear an eye mask at night.
- Eat foods that help the body create melatonin, such as turkey, chicken, oats, nuts and seeds. Montmorency cherry has small amounts of melatonin, so drinking the juice can help with sleep.
Tips for better, restorative sleep:
- Avoid drinking caffeine after 2 pm.
I know you might be one of those who isn’t affected by caffeine in the evening in terms of falling asleep. But caffeine stops us getting into a deep restorative sleep, meaning you’re probably going to need caffeine or sugar to get up the next day! Caffeine takes around 7 hours to completely leave the body, that’s why you should stop around 2 pm. Beware of decaf! It still has a small amount of caffeine in.
- Ditch the nightcap
Alcohol might help you relax in the evening, but it’s not great for your sleep. Although you may fall asleep quicker because you feel more relaxed, it actually prevents deep restorative sleep. Meaning you don’t get all the benefits of sleep and you probably won’t look or feel refreshed the next day.
- Get into a routine
Waking up at the same time every day, and going to sleep at a similar time every day is so important to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Getting outside in the morning also helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. As the sunlight hits our eye, it helps to suppress melatonin and tell our body it’s time to be awake and energised.
- Try calming herbs in the evening
Herbs like lavender, chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm and valerian all help to relax the body to prepare for sleep. If you get up in the night to urinate, have these as tea earlier in the evening, around 6-7 pm.
- Magnesium salt baths
Using magnesium salt, or Epsom salts in the bath can help the body to absorb magnesium, which calms our nervous system. When we’re stressed we lose a lot of magnesium, so it’s important to replenish.
If you are struggling with your sleep due to hormonal changes in the menopause, or suffer from insomnia, nutritional therapy can offer support. Feel free to book a discovery call to find out how.
- Protective Effects of Melatonin on the Skin: Future Perspectives https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6802208/
- How the skin can tell time https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)34341-4/fulltext
- Negative effects of restricted sleep on facial appearance and social appeal https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5451790/
- Nocturnal itch: why do we itch at night? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17598030/
- The 24-hour rhythm of aquaporin-3 function in the epidermis is regulated by molecular clocks https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24418925/
- Circadian Rhythm and the Skin: A Review of the Literature https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6777699/#B15
- The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23853635/
- Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.3170
- Photo by Александар Цветановић from Pexels