Sleep. Most of us say we don’t—or really, can’t—get enough. Either the demands on our time mean we scrimp on our sleep to fulfill work, parental or social responsibilities, or we try to sleep and lie there staring at the ceiling hour after hour. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 50 million and 70 million Americans have trouble sleeping.
Either way, you may not be aware of the impact lack of sleep has on your skin. First, it can worsen such inflammatory skin conditions as acne, rosacea, rashes, psoriasis and eczema. Second, it can make you look older.
This last effect was borne out in a clinical trial commissioned by the cosmetics firm Estée Lauder, done by physician-scientists at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center. This study showed that poor sleepers had increased signs of skin aging as measured by independent observers, as well as assessments by the study subjects themselves.
The study looked at the effects of self-reported sleep deprivation on 60 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 30 and 49. Half the participants were rated as poor-quality sleepers, based on their average duration of sleep and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a standard assessment of sleep quality.
The study involved not only visual inspection of the participants’ skin, but a number of non-invasive tests, including UV light exposure and skin barrier disruption. The researchers found that those who didn’t sleep well showed significantly more signs of skin aging, such as fine lines, uneven pigmentation and less skin elasticity. They also found that those who slept well were quicker to recover from such environmental stressors as pollution and sun (UV light) exposure.
There are two main reasons for these results:
1) Lack of adequate sleep promotes inflammation throughout the body, including the skin; and, 2) the body uses the time we are sleeping to repair itself at the cellular level.
How does this work? When you’re awake, the sympathetic nervous system keeps more blood in the core of the body to assist with digestion and muscle demands. During sleep, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes dominant and allows blood to flow closer to the surface of the skin, nourishing skin cells and flushing away excess fluid and toxins. In addition, the collagen needed for support of healthy skin is allowed to flourish during your sleeping hours.
What does all this mean to you? The board-certified dermatologists at Skin Associates of South Florida recommend you get at least eight hours of sleep every night, not only for the health of your skin, but for overall health.
And if you can’t? If it’s a matter of time commitments, find ways to trim them back. Except in emergencies, adequate sleep is necessary to your health.
If it’s insomnia, keep in mind these tips:
1. Cut back or eliminate such stimulants as nicotine and caffeine. Caffeine can affect sleep as late as 12 hours after your last cup of coffee.
2. Restrict activities in bed to sleep and intimacy. Don’t train your body or brain to think of the bed as either a work or entertainment platform.
3. Nap only when absolutely necessary. Afternoon naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. Also, set regular bedtimes and waking times, even on holidays and weekends. Many new cell phones can be set with a gentle reminder for you to sleep!
4. Do not eat or drink (including alcohol) within three hours of bedtime. Digesting food can interrupt the quality of your sleep. Liquids will force you to awaken during the night for bathroom trips. Alcohol can have a rebound effect, making you sleepy at first, then waking you in the middle of the night when that effect wears off.
5. If worries keep you awake, keep a pad and pencil by your bedside to jot them down for consideration in the morning.
6. Turn off all electronic devices one hour before bed. The blue light on such devices as cellphones, computers and televisions can disrupt your sleep rhythms.
7. Lastly don’t forget to apply topical products to help your skin regenerate during your sleeping hours—we love the restørsea Rebalancing Lotion available at our own Skin Associates Apothecary, to soothe the skin reducing redness and inflammation.