“Sleep is the elixir of life. It is the most widely available and democratic powerful healthcare system I could ever possibly imagine.” - Sleep expert and neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker.
Sleep is so vital for countless reasons, but I’m only just becoming truly aware of how big of a role it plays in our overall health. I always knew that we needed at least 8 hours of sleep a night to fully recover, but it just never seemed possible or truly necessary. It always seemed more of a luxury to me. However after realising that my skin issues would worsen with a poor night sleep, I started to do some research and everything I learnt really blew my mind.
As sleep expert and neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker says “Mother Nature wouldn’t waste time putting you into a state that wasn’t necessary”.
- We need about 7-9 hours of sleep a night
- The shorter your sleep on average, the shorter your life will be
- Sleep repairs the damage that has been caused to the brain during the day
- While you sleep, there is a sewage system in the brain that cleanses the brain of all the metabolic toxins that have been accumulated during the day. These toxins will build up without enough sleep.
- One of those toxins is beta amyloid which is responsible for Alzheimer’s disease
- Insufficient sleep is also linked to bowl, prostate and breast cancer
- The hunger hormone ghrelin also gets charged up meaning that we eat more and usually the foods that are bad for us causing us to gain weight
- People who sleep 4-5 hours a night will eat 200-300 more calories on average each day
- There is also no sleep bank – having not enough sleep during the week won’t be paid off during the weekend when there’s more time to sleep in.
- With 14 days straight of 6 hours of sleep or less, your cognitive performance plummets
- It is also extremely dangerous as drowsy driving kills more people on the roads than alcohol and drugs combined
- A study showed that people who were sleep deprived had a 70% decrease in the critical anti cancer fighting cells
- Our immune system also weakens with insufficient sleep
EFFECTS ON SKIN:
- When you don’t get enough sleep your skin doesn’t get a chance to repair from free radial, stress and toxin damage
- When you sleep your body boosts blood flow to the skin causing you to wake up with a natural glow, however if you don’t get enough sleep, blood flow to the skin surrounding your face decreases causing it to look dull and lifeless
- The body increases its stress hormone (cortisol) which increases the severity of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and sensitivity
- Cortisol also hinders our ability to produce and maintain collagen and breakdowns hyaluronic acid, which both give the skin its glow and bounce
- This also leads to premature aging as the skins elasticity will be decreased
- The acid mantle and skin membrane which form a protective barrier for the skin can be disrupted making way for bacteria resulting in acne and skin irritations
- Your hydration rebalances while you sleep so when you haven’t had enough, your skin will lack moisture causing puffy bags and dark circles under the eyes as well as dryness and more visible lines
- Our growth hormone also rises during sleep which repairs damaged cells. As this only happens in the deeper stages of sleep, if this stage is missed, these cells will breakdown on a daily basis which will speed up signs of ageing
I’ve always struggled with sleep though – sometimes checking the clock and its 4am and still wide awake with my alarm due to go off in 2 hours. I would be tired in the morning, sure – but I’d still function throughout the day and I started to think that my body has adapted to not needing much sleep. I now understand that my body was just barely functioning and that my overall wellness would have been spiralling down, not to mention my skin! So I also have researched some tips to help us get the shut eye we need!
TIPS FOR A BETTER NIGHTS SLEEP:
- Try and go to bed and wake up the same time each day
- Try and stay away from screens as the light will severely suppress your body’s melatonin production
- Just one hour of iPhone use will delay your melatonin production by 3 hours!
- Turn off most of the lights in the house 2-3 hours before bed as darkness triggers your melatonin production and will begin to make you feel sleepy (I now just use my floor lamp every night!)
- Keep your room cool (I really feel the cold so I don’t like this one!) But your brain needs to drop its temperature to fall asleep
- Keeping your hands and feet warm is great though!
- Taking a bath would also help as when you get out your core temperature will drop which is ideal
- Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full
- Have a notepad by your bed if your brain cant switch off – write everything down you’re thinking about and then tell yourself you’ll deal with it tomorrow
There are so many more effects and reasons to make sleep a priority, however these were the main points that really stuck with me. I always thought I had too much to do and sleep was naturally the thing that I would always jeopardise. However my opinion has now shifted and I realise that I will be more productive and make better use out of fewer hours after having a good sleep.
Image via @sundaylane