Know that feeling of dragging yourself through the day after another turbulent night’s sleep? If so, you won’t need us to tell you that sleep deprivation can make everything a lot harder – and how you look and feel not so peachy either. Concentrating at work becomes difficult as our focus falters, and the little things are more likely to get on our nerves. We may also be more tempted by sugary snacks or rely heavily on glugging caffeine to keep us going.
Sleeping poorly on a regular basis can affect more than our attention span and stress levels. Various medical problems from obesity and diabetes to cancer and immune deficiency have been associated with chronic sleep deprivation. And skimping on nightly slumber (the time when our bodies get busy healing, repairing and renewing) spells disaster for our complexions too. One study showed a significant increase in blemishes, brown spots, redness and bacteria on the skin after just five days of reduced sleep, while another study demonstrated that long-term sleep deprivation accelerates skin aging (causing more fine lines and wrinkles) as well as slowing down healing from sunburn.
On the bright-eyed side though, when we do get into a healthy sleeping rhythm, we’re likely to feel brighter and less stressed and have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight and remembering things, to name a few benefits. In other words, sleep is worth prioritising and will make our waking hours count more to boot.
But what if you find it difficult to nod off at night? Or struggle to stay asleep? Try our three steps below to increase your chances of getting your beauty sleep tonight.
1. Create an optimal environment for sleep
One of the more common things that hinders our attempts to drift easily at night is exposure to bright lights late in the evening. How easily we fall asleep – as well as the quality and quantity of sleep – is to a large extent linked to our levels of melatonin, aka the ‘sleep hormone’: darkness ramps up the production and bright lights suppress it. To keep things melatonin-friendly, avoid watching the telly or using your computer late in the evening, and aim to switch your phone off well ahead of bedtime. If possible, dim the lights in your home or switch to softer, amber coloured lights, such as Himalayan salt lamps, in the evenings, and use black-out curtains or blinds in the bedroom to create complete darkness at night.
Falling asleep is also partly cued by a natural fall in our body temperature, and keeping the bedroom cool can help us sleep better. The optimal room temperature for sleep is thought to be 15.5 – 19.5°C (60 – 67°F).
2. Follow a sleep-friendly bedtime routine
A soothing bedtime routine is another good way to let our bodies know it’s time to wind down for sleep. Avoid caffeine after 3pm as well and skip exercising and eating a couple of hours before bedtime.
Instead, take time for a soothing evening ritual: gentle stretching, reading and a warm bath infused with lavender essential oil and epsom salts are good ways to calm the mind and body alike. To maximise the complexion-boosting powers of sleep, treat your skin to a cleanse, tone and moisturise routine before hitting the pillow – for guaranteed glowing skin by morning try our three-phase system.
If an overactive mind is keeping you from falling asleep, try this: write a list of the things that are on your mind and leave it outside your room (or visualise the same if you have no pen and paper at hand). And if you’re getting frustrated and anxious about not being able to fall sleep, stop trying and pick up a book or meditate for ten minutes instead.
3. Go for a sleep-boosting lifestyle
What we do in the last few hours before bedtime may have the biggest impact on the quality of our sleep, but what we get up to earlier in the day and matters too.
It’s easier to sleep well when we maintain a regular daily pattern: waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day as far as possible, including the weekends. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night, and aim always to go to bed before midnight.
We can also incorporate foods that are naturally rich in melatonin in our diet, particularly in the evenings. Try including tomatoes, bell peppers, rice and walnuts in your dinner, or snack on bananas and morello cherries.
And while it’s best to avoid exercise late in the evening (because of its energising and stimulating effects), working out regularly during the day has been shown to greatly enhance both sleep quality and duration. And the benefits work the other way round too – better sleep can improve our physical performance.0