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64. Lifestyle Series - Five ways to improve sleep

Updated: Mar 21

Did you know that humans are the only species to deprive themselves of sleep? Me neither, but it's true! In 1942, 8 hours of sleep was the norm, but now the average is 6-8 hours a night. I must admit, I fall into the later category!

Dr. Neil Stanley has been a sleep researcher for 36 years and his studies show that after a bad night sleep we are 33% more likely to crave sugar and 4 times more likely to pick up a common cold.

We need deep sleep for our bodies to go into the biological regeneration mode to recharge and repair our bodies. This isn't my first blog post or mention of getting a good night sleep and I'm not here to preach about it, but more of a gentle reminder not to cheat yourself or your body of the ability to refresh, relax and restore itself... I know I need reminding that it's ok to rest!

photo credit: Harper's Bazaar - 11 best sleep masks

Our body has a natural body clock called the circadian rhythm that helps to clear waste products from our system, renew itself and repair brain cells. The impacts of sleep have been studied for centuries and what happens in different stages of sleep. Did you know a good night sleep can improve our memory by 30-50%?! I wish I knew that at university when I would pull an all nighter studying for an exam - I should've had a good night sleep instead to improve my memory!

Newer findings characterize sleep as a brain state optimizing memory consolidation, in opposition to the waking brain being optimized for encoding of memories. - Researchers Björn Rasch and Jan Born from the Biopsychology, Neuroscience Center Zurich, University of Zurich

A good night sleep boosts creativity, problem solving and sharpness to complete tasks. After a bad night sleep we tend to make mistakes, feel lazy and fatigued. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycles that is part of the body's internal clock which help us to carry out essential functions.

So how do our sleep patterns affect our skin? The best time to apply restoring nighttime serums and creams is between 9pm - 11pm when our skin is in the evening phase and will best absorb active ingredients. Then between 11pm - 6am our bodies enter the night phase and the skin (and body) repair themselves and regeneration accelerates.

Some changes to our sleep patterns we can control and others we can't. The physical and biological factors we can control like environment, noise and temperature. When exposed to only natural light our bodies align with sunrise and sunset. Intuitively, when it's dark our bodies start to unwind and prepare for sleep, light affects the production of melatonin which is a sleep hormone.

Phychological factors - like stress and anxiety; have you noticed when something is on your mind, it disrupts your sleep pattern? If I've got a big task that needs to be done, I often wake up in the early hours with a busy mind to get and get things done. Sometimes my 'power hour' is 3am - 6am which I know isn't good for my sleep pattern or my skin, but its an example of how psychological factors disrupt our sleep.

Lifestyle - changes to our sleep patterns due to working shift patterns and social engagements. When I used to be cabin crew our circadian rhythms were all over the place - literally! I learned to sleep anywhere at anytime - healthy or not... I'm sure researchers have many debates about that. However, if you do travel a lot or work shift patterns it is really important to take extra care of your skin and body.

Poor sleep causes a lack of radiance in the skin, increased dehydration because the body doesn't get the chance to regulate the fluids in the body, accelerated skin ageing, puffy eyes, dark circles, sensitivity and also skin disorders or flare ups like eczema. None of us would sign up for these side affects to lack of sleep, yet are concerns that often arise during my consultations with clients.

At night the skin cells repair themselves, cell turnover increases - youth boosting, collagen production increases, the blood flow and water loss increases. I don't need to tell you that sleep is important for glowing skin! But what I will mention is that if you do struggle with sleep patterns or are sleep deprived it is important to spend more time looking after your skin to help prevent longterm signs of fatigue showing on your skin.

What can we do to help improve our sleep and support our skin?

1. Turn off electrical devices - the recommended time is at least one hour before bed. Did you know that electronics omit the same wavelengths of light as the morning sun? When blue light hits our retinas, it signals the pineal gland and tell is not to make any more of the sleep hormone melatonin.

2. Bedroom atmosphere - make your room as dark as possible, darkness signals to our bodies that its time to rest. Melatonin is key to the circadian rhythm, the light and dark circles are what keep our body clocks in time. When we abuse exposure to light we abuse our body's natural wake/sleep cycle. Try to keep noise to a minimum, if you can't have total peace then try listening to a sleep story or use a white noise machine to create a quiet atmosphere. Temperature is also important, 16 -18C is optimal for a restful sleep.

3. Avoid excess alcohol and caffeine - did you know that a cup of coffee acts as a stimulus for 5-7 hours? It is recommended to have your last cuppa joe at lunchtime so that your body can gradually unwind in the afternoon and be ready for bed in the evening. Caffiene blocks chemicals that make us sleepy... it's the world's most popular drug! Not only does it keep us awake, excess alcohol and caffeine both affects the hydration levels in the body, affecting the regulation of body temperature which results in poor quality of sleep.

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. In Western society, at least 80 per cent of the adult population consumes caffeine in amounts large enough to have an effect on the brain... Caffeine affects the same parts of the brain as cocaine, but in completely different ways. -National Library of Medicine

4. Deep breathing - there are several breathing techniques to follow, but rather than focussing on a particular exercise I'd rather share the benefits of trying it. The breath is the only part of the atomic nervous system that is consciously controllable. Regulating the breath can reduce anxiety, promote relaxation and induce a deeper quality of sleep. Inhaling and exhaling is super powerful when done slowly and deeply in a rhythmic way. It massages the vagus nerve which helps to calm the body, relax the mind and reduce anxiety, it also slows the heart rate and reduces blood pressure.

5. Follow a bedtime routine - set aside 30 -120 minutes before bed to unwind. Create some quiet time and design a bedtime routine to help you unwind, allow your brain to switch off and relax. Try reading a book, following a bedtime yoga routine, meditate, listen to a sleep story, follow a breathing exercise, run a candlelit bath to soak away the daily stressors and use a relaxing body oil or scented body butter you nourish the skin and relax the mind.

Chronic sleep loss can lead to lacklustre skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. To boost that overnight glow, some of my Dermalogica favourites are:

Retinol and Peptides:

- Overnight Retinol Repair - this helps boost the skin renewal rate and works to accumulatively youth boost the skin

- Retinol Clearing Oil - has a combination of salicylic acid and retinol that helps fight breakouts and regenerates the skin.

- Photo Nature Firming Serum - now this one is clinically proved to turn back the clock by 5 years and is great layered under the Overnight Retinol Repair or Biolumin C for an extra youth boost!

- Nightly Lip Treatment - to boost and restore the lip area overnight helping to naturally plump and hydrate the lips

Multi-functional Products:

- Hydro Masque Exfoliant - a new masque that exfoliates with bamboo and hydrates leaving the skin refreshed and smooth in the morning.

- Skin Resurfacing Cleanser - another two in one product that gently exfoliates and cleanses the skin in one treatment

- Antioxidant Hydramist - is hydrating and a light mist that is great to refresh the skin before moisturising and throughout the day.

Products to Support Sleep:

- Sound Sleep Cocoon - a lightweight nighttime gel cream that optimise skin recovery while you sleep

- Overnight Repair Serum - a powerful peptide serum that promotes skin repair. I love layering this under the Sound Sleep Cocoon for the ultimate bedtime treat!

I've also formulated a body range called Aurum D that consists of a Signature Scent with Cedarwood, Ylang Ylang and Lavender to refresh, relax and restore the mind, body and spirit. The Signature range is scented with this relaxing aroma to help you unwind in a mineral salt bath and nourish the skin with a rich body butter.

I hope you have a good night sleep. Thank you for reading!

- Diana x

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