NATURAL BEAUTY: SLEEP VS YOUR SKIN
SLEEP VS YOUR SKIN
WHY SLEEP IS CRITICAL FOR RADIANT SKIN
No matter the setting of your body clock (remember that only 15% of the population are Wolves (can stay up a little later), which isn't a lot of people), we require at least seven hours of sleep, at least. And this doesn't mean seven hours from 1AM to 8AM, this is okay here and there because of course, Life, but this doesn't serve us in anyway. Especially when it comes to the health and healing of our Skin. Our skin heals, rejuvenates, and repairs in the night more than we can ever imagine. Science + technology still don't know all the miraculous processes that take place when we lay our head down to sleep. It's all pretty remarkable when we think about it! The dreams, the healing, the glymphatic system (your brain literally gets shampooed at night), and all the rejuvenation that takes place at night is insane. Just think back to all the times when you didn't sleep well, you don't feel like yourself, everything is slower, you're hungrier, you're brain isn't functioning properly, and your tissue isn't healing and rebuilding, which means your skin is looking lack lustre, dull, dry, you're starting to break out, your pigmentations stay longer, and your scars take forever to heal, because sleep is vital for having the best skin ever.
We are meant to follow the natural rhythm of Mother Nature - Sleep when the sun goes down, and wake when the sun arises. This gets a little more difficult in the seasons, but our body craves, wants and needs a rhythm and routine, so I believe in keeping a constant sleep cycle and rhythm no matter what season it is. I know this might seem strict to some people, but it's only because you're so far off your cycle that you don't even think it's possible.
Sleep is one of my greatest health pillars, ever. Apart from gut health it's the number one thing I tackle in my practice before we dig deep, deep, deep into symptoms that are taking place externally + internally.
Partial sleep deprivation is what experts refer to as sleep debt, when you achieve some sleep but not 100 per cent of what your body needs to feel restored. Most can function normally after one night of minimal sleep. However, as days and nights continue with deprived rest, we begin to show signs of irritability, headaches, stomach problems, increased production of the stress hormone cortisol, weight gain, acne,lower levels of antibodies to fight illness and disease, mood swings, depression, anxiety, memory lapses and an inability to effectively turn on either the logical or creative brain, due to the fact we are not effectively switching off. - sound familiar anyone? Sometimes you don't even realize this is the case. Yet we live in a society where we are expected to show up every single day, ready to present creative ideas and logical strategies, to effectively manage our stress, to be on call and ready to respond 24/7, all while sleep deprivation is more common among us than ever before. I think we are a sleep deprived society, not truly knowing or realizing what true rest actually is as our brains and nervous systems are running on hyper drive (which is a fall sense of adrenal energy).
Stages of Sleep
There are two major types of sleep our bodies experience – REM and non-REM sleep. REM, as scientists define it, is ‘dreaming sleep’ and is the early stage of rest. Non-REM occurs as we drift into the depth of sleep, the ‘quiet sleep’. The two phases repeat approximately every 90 minutes, moving from REM to non-REM. This is important to know! If there is interruption to sleep our bodies stay within the REM phase and, as a result, do not feel quite at rest. During deep sleep the activity of the sympathetic nervous system – the part responsible for our fight or flight response – is generally decreased while parasympathetic nervous system activity, involved with rest and digestion, is increased. When we have a good night of uninterrupted sleep, and more non-REM cycles, we wake feeling alert, well rested and are able to function optimally. We look in the mirror and our skin looks well healed, our eyes are bright, and we feel like ourselves.
Different factors may affect an individual’s ability to move into peaceful non-REM sleep to achieve complete rest. But from my observations, from my own sleep history and that of my clients, a major contributor is the stress of our fast-paced lives compounded by an inability to truly disconnect from the pressure of our days, and too much thought before bed! We aren't switching off, ever... Do you check instagram before bed? Is your phone in wi-fi all night? If you can't sleep at night do you reach over to scroll? Do you wake up between 2-3AM? (this is your liver waking you up!) Are you not able to get to sleep before midnight?
We need to start taking a deeper look into it all, because when it comes to our skin, lack of sleep is a major contributor (piece of your unique skin puzzle) as to why it's not healing, and why if you want sustainable skin healing, developing a healthy sleep ritual is a must. No product, ever will erase poor sleep, unbalanced hormones, poor tissue repair, and the inability to rebuild collagen, which is the structure of your skin. Without it premature aging takes please, sagging, loss of radiance, and the inability for tissue to stay strong, which we want. This isn't about anti-aging, and turning back the clock, it's about looking at skin like the vital organ that it is, and take care of it with care, as it does so much for us. I focus on beauty from the inside out, and glowing into my 80's because healthy skin = healthy internal flora and life force. Inner outer, before outer inner.
STEPS + MINDFUL ACTIONS YOU CAN START IMPLEMENTING OR BRINgING INTO AWARENESS
Creating daily habits that contribute to quality rest and create a safe haven for sleep is vital, and is at the cornerstone of achieving nocturnal bliss, as your bedroom energy and environment are super important - I know for myself I can't go to sleep with clutter, as I feel like it energetically clutters my mind. It has to be V dark, cool, and quiet... Ideally : the bed (your bed) is a place for two things only: sleep and sex. When we bring other forces in the mix our bed and bedroom can lose their sense of sanctuary.
Develop a schedule for sleep. This is particularly important for those who suffer anxiety, insomnia or are prone to napping during the day. Structure sleep patterns so the body can wind down and rest at the same time each night (9.30 to 10.30pm) and rise with the day (5.30 to 6.30am). Our bodies crave routine! Even if your mind resists it. The times we feel wired are often when the body most needs sleep (This is your adrenals giving you false energy, you think you have energy, but you're running off of pure adrenaline)
Reduce intake of stimulants. While these have the interim effect of helping us flick the on switch, they have a powerful effect on our downtime, and hence flicking off our off switch. Some of us know our limits (mine is no caffeine ideally past 1pm, sometimes on a Friday it will be past 2pm - Wild I know - lol - I know my nervous system and adrenals so well that I can't push it or I won't fall asleep). Coffee, tea, energy and soft drinks, drugs and alcohol will push the body into a longer awakened period. Despite alcohol being a depressant, it forces the liver to work overtime, which can disrupt sleep in the early hours (3 to 4am) of the morning!
Increase intake of nourishing foods. This will support the production of melatonin and serotonin, our sleep and mood stabilizing hormones, and will replenish the adrenals. Consider including bananas, almonds, pumpkin seed milk, and protein-rich food, oats, chamomile and passionflower tea in your diet to boost your body’s sources of tryptophan, magnesium, essential fats, protein and potassium. These nutrients relax muscles, aid the action of melatonin and serotonin and help the body wind down into restorative rest... A good magnesium bath also helps with this wind down process. Epsom salt soaks with essential oils are my favourite.
Ensure a wind-down hour prior to sleep. Switch off technology (TV, phones, tablets) for at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. I know in this day and age this is hard, but to get a restful sleep (Not just sleep, as that's two different things) we must switch off. I've started to place my phone on airplane around 7:30-8PM so no one or nothing can come through. Not only do these prolong stress and reduce clarity (with screens often linked to work) but the bright lights can suppress the production of melatonin, a key hormone in the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythms and sleep.
By contrast, when we read a good book, this allows our minds to enter deeply into another world, which is the perfect preparation for sleep. Whatever you find is a helpful bedtime ritual for you, whether reading a book, listening to radio, or watching a film, or tv show, just make it consistent. My personal recommendation for bedtime ritual is: i) have a long soak in the bath with no devices; ii) be in bed at the same time every night, apart from one night a week; iii) lower the lights and turn off all digital devices; iv) put some lavender oil on your pillow or wrists; v) read a good book (if you have a partner, engage in pillow talk – research has shown pillow talk strengthens relationships and supports sleep) vi) wake up at the same time every day, and don’t snooze! When you snooze you develop ‘sleep inertia’ where your body gets confused and you can carry on feeling half-asleep for up to four hours after you finally wake up.
Use your breath. Our body can’t switch off and truly rest unless we start to reduce the activity of our sympathetic nervous system, which is impacted by the physical, emotional and mental stress in our lives. Implement breathing rituals at the beginning and end of each day to reduce the fight or flight mechanism and increase the action of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is simplest one to do, but often the hardest one to implement!
Finally, consider what expectations you place on yourself. Is the list too long, the pressure too intense, or are there too many boxes to tick in a day? There is only one person responsible for regulating this.
Challenge your own unhelpful beliefs about sleep: you have a number of unhelpful beliefs about sleep. The best way to unravel these beliefs is to keep a thought diary the next time you don’t get ‘a good night’s sleep’. Write down the typical thoughts you tend to have when you don’t feel you have had a good night’s sleep. If you practice this observation, you will quickly see how powerful some of these beliefs are, often causing you to feel very grumpy, disconnected, ineffective.
Stop time-watching: This is huge for me as I'm guilty of this if I can't fall into slumber! One of the most powerful beliefs we have around sleep is to do with time. If you find yourself counting how many hours sleep you are getting, now is the time to let this time-watching part of you go. Keep your alarm clock aka Phone for most of us out of sight, if you need one. When you enter the bedroom, note to yourself that you are entering into a timeless, magical zone. I know this is easier said than done...but through practice I believe it's possible by building a new healthy neural pathway.
Bring the magic back into sleep: you don’t need to believe in the Sandman or other fictional sleep-aids to reconnect with a sense of magic about sleep. Sleep is truly a magical place, where time stands still, and the possibilities of creation are infinite. Cultivate this sense of sleep as a magical realm by looking for magic in your dreams. If you struggle to remember your dreams, you might keep a dream journal.NOTE - it's good to keep a journal by your bed! (make lists, gratitude lists, dream log) But practice looking for the magic elements of your dreamworlds.
As Albert Einstein said: “Logic will get you from a to z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
Develop Sleep Discipline: many readers will be thinking that the rituals above are something you have heard many times before. If so, then we need to ask ourselves why we struggle to put these bedtime routines into practice? I believe that we all know deep down what conditions help us to sleep. But we consistently fail to put these routines into practice, because we get carried away on tides of excitement, especially with the internet’s promise of endless distraction. To become more disciplined with your sleep routines, ask yourself what you would prefer: to stay up flicking from one thing to another, or to wake up in the morning with a smile, knowing that your bedtime routine opened up a magical portal for your soul to travel into a delicious dreamworld. I will take number two forever and always.
Nurture your mind: when we can’t get to sleep we quickly get frustrated with our minds for not switching off when we want them too. But we all know that frustration just exacerbates our insomnia. Imagine your mind is that of a baby's. If a baby was not sleeping, would you get angry with it, shout at it, make it look at a million different web-pages? Or would you rather nurture it, sing lullabies, gently rocking it, until it drifted off into a deep slumber? Just as you would nurture a baby, so should you nurture your own mind by cultivating self-compassion.
Meditation: It literally brings your attention away from your stressed out, overthinking mind, into your bodily sensations. One simple way to do this is to do a body scan, where you bring your attention up and down your body, from your head to your toes and back. It is important that you notice when your thinking mind starts to want to label and describe the physical sensations. When it does this, gently bring your attention back to the pure physical sensations. With your attention on your physical sensations, and not on your thoughts, you will easily drift off. However, on the rare occasion this does not work, I recommend getting out of bed, finding a quiet corner, sitting down and keep gently bringing your awareness into your physical sensations. Each time you notice your thinking mind getting hooked again, gently bring back your attention into your body and your physical sensations.
Acceptance and gratitude: there is a very powerful psychological technique you can use when sleep is not finding you, but it comes with a great challenge. You have to give up on your desire to get to sleep. If you can let go of the part of you that is so desperately yearning for sleep, and instead invite a sense of radical acceptance for where you are in this moment of not sleeping, you will notice an immediate release of tension. With this release of tension, you create space to consider why you are grateful for being awake at this time. Write it down if it helps. I like to repeat acceptance and gratitude affirmations. Here are some examples for you (although I encourage you to weave your own magic into them): I am letting go of the need to control; I trust this moment is perfect and accept it unconditionally; I trust and surrender to the flow of life; I am grateful for this quiet time to myself; I am grateful just to be alive.
You might or might not be wondering what sleep has to do with your skin, but it's 100% piece of the puzzle. Skin isn't healed in isolation, ever. Healthy skin for life is all encompassing, and holistic. It lives, breathes, and grows with us. Take a look at your skin when you're stressed + not sleep, and adrenally exhausted, compared to when you feel at ease, slept 8 hours soundly, and all of your bodily systems are in balance ( ESP your hormones ! Hormones are another piece of the skin puzzle).
Once we see the holistic puzzle that it is, we're able to accept the growth, and work it takes to heal.
If you're looking to delve deeper into your body, mind and soul, while using nutrition, food as medicine, reprogramming your mindset, advisory into your true innate self, and to take your healing to the next level, I would love to be there for you, and look forward to connecting over a session.