It’s 2 am. You wake up, take a trip to the bathroom, and get back into bed.
And lie there.
Toss and turn.
You start to think about…
Money, your job, your kids, your relationship, the list goes on and on.
It’s probably not news that sleep is probably the number one thing you can do to improve your immune system, your skin, and your overall health.
The issue isn’t if you need it.
The issue is how do you get it.
The more you think or worry about it, the more elusive a good night’s sleep becomes.
I’m no stranger to sleep issues and they’ one of the most common problems I hear about in my practice. And can be one of the hardest to overcome.
Sleep is perhaps the #1 factor in staying healthy, yet many of us can’t seem to get enough of it. For many reasons.
In his brilliant book Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker tells us:
“Two thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep. I doubt you’re surprised by this fact, but you may be surprised by the consequences. Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.”
Do sleeping pills help?
Many people resort to pharmaceutical sleep drugs in desperation. But they come with a lot of downsides.
Daniel Kripke MD, sleep researcher and the author of The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills (this an ebook you can read online through the link) says that in general sleeping pills are not a good solution. His book starts off with a warning:
WARNING: Sleeping pills are hazardous to your health and could cause death from cancer, infections, overdoses, respiratory failure, other illnesses or accidents.
What about over the counter sleep aids?
Using Nyquil, Unisom, Benedryl or other over the counter sleep aids when you have a cold or an overwhelming event is one thing, but they’re not meant for or healthy for regular use.
When you use these medications you’re knocking yourself out, but studies show that you’re not getting the deep, restorative sleep that you need for good health. You’re floating on the top of the sleep river rather than taking the deep, restorative dive that you need.
Again, no thanks.
Let’s look at some other ways to get better sleep.
Good sleep hygiene is the go to way to start
Good sleep is all about establishing healthy sleep habits. Like almost all habits, it can be hard to change poor sleep habits to good ones. And what works can be different for each person.
First, make sleep time a priority. If you don’t make time for enough sleep (this probably is actually more than 8 hours since time falling asleep doesn’t count), that’s the place to start.
If you have trouble actually sleeping or staying asleep, here are some ideas:
- Consistency- we all have a sleep pattern that determines when we go to sleep and wake. This is determined by habit and also by the complex of neurochemicals that cause us to sleep. Going to bed and waking at the same time every day helps to establish a healthy pattern and let the daily rhythm of our sleep hormones stabilize.
- Keep it dark- melatonin is the hormone of sleep and needs darkness to be released. Turn off your night lights and devices. Put a cover over your lighted clock and black out curtains over your windows
- Get morning light- Getting light as soon as you wake boosts your serotonin levels which make you feel awake and happy. Get outside for a few minutes if possible. Boosting your serotonin in the morning helps rebalance your serotonin-melatonin cycle and resets your sleep-wake cycle. This is especially important for people who have a hard time falling asleep.
- Keep it cool- Your body temperature naturally drops slightly in the evening. This is normal and it helps you to get ready to sleep. A cool bedroom and not too many coverings can help keep you asleep. There’s research that shows people (mainly women) who get too warm (and their core temperature rises too early) have a hard time staying asleep or wake and can’t back to sleep. For a lot of us, hot flashes and night sweats are the trigger, but a cool room can help.
- Off load anxiety and stress before bed-This is the top reason people give for not being able to sleep. Chronic stress means cortisol rhythms are disrupted and don’t allow you to get sleepy or wake you up and you’re wide awake in the middle of the night (click here for help with this). Which causes more stress. It’s terrible for your cells, your organs, your immune system and your skin.
Find practices that help you relax. Breathing meditation, getting away from the news and your devices, exercising, and our favorite, spending time outdoors and in nature.
Before bed and if you wake up in the night, try deep breathing exercises. Here is one that works well for sleep:
- Breath in for 4 (expand the belly).
- Hold for 7.
- Exhale for 8.
If it’s hard to do this pattern for those counts without getting out of breath, know it’s the ratio that’s important. So, you can start with in for 2, hold for 3.5, out for 4 and still get the same effects. Do this pattern for at least four breath cycles
Here’s another, simpler one:
- breath in for 4
- breath out for 6.
- Speaking of exercise… it’s an excellent stress buster and great for your health. But don’t do it too late in the day (within 2-3 hours of bedtime). Exercise raises your core temperature (temporarily) which makes it difficult to sleep.
- Ditto caffeine and eating. Caffeine has a long half-life (5-6hours) which means it stays in your system (and brain) long after you consume it. Try to avoid caffeine after 12-2pm at the latest. Going to bed on a full stomach interferes with sleep so try to have your last meal of the day at least two hours before bed.
- Blue Light-The light that is emitted from your devices (computer, phone, TV, etc) messes with your sleep hormones. That means your pituitary gland gets confused about when to release the neurochemicals that help fall and stay asleep. You can use apps that change the screen color or amber blue light blocking glasses, but shutting off the devices an hour or two before bed is the best way to go. Especially now when the news is non-stop upsetting.
90% of adults use their electronic devices within an hour of bedtime. Don’t be a statistic.
Sleep and your skin
Beauty sleep is a real thing. Because night is when your body naturally works to repair the damage done during the day. And build collagen and elastin. Your body increases the blood flow to your face to sweep away toxins and cellular debris. Plus, the increased circulation delivers the vitamins and nutrients that help nourish your skin to keep it healthy and beautiful.
While you sleep, your immune system works to fight inflammation (enemy of great skin as well as the rest of your body), heal wounds, and fortify the skin barrier.
You’re not being bombarded with UV light, blue light or other environmental stressors at night. Which gives your body and skin a break from defending itself. And a real chance to concentrate on restoring and renewing.
This is why a good skincare routine is most important at night. First of all, a relaxing skin routine gives you some me time to destress and take care of yourself. Taking the day’s grime off your face is key for your best skin health.
Your serums (GloDrops Restoring Retinol and SnowDropsNourishing and Protecting Peptide and Stem Cell ) and night moisturizer (SunDown Night Restoring Cream) get the chance to really do their work while you rest.
Good sleeps also helps you keep a fuller, more healthy head of hair.
Sleep is so basic to good health and longevity.
Resetting your sleep patterns, and changing sleep sapping habits takes some work and some time. Go easy on yourself. Over time you can improve your sleep, and your health, mood, and, of course, skin.