Beauty Sleep: The All Around Remedy You Can Start Tonight
We might think we can skimp on sleep then manage with caffeine throughout the day, but the skin doesn’t lie, which is why we have dark circles, under eye bags, and blotchy lackluster skin when we’re sleep deprived. It’s an amazing feature of our bodies to use the many sleep hours at night to work hard on all kinds of things—including repairing and renewing cells and all the nitty gritty deep digestive work. An interrupted sleep means we can also interrupt those processes as well. Beauty sleep is not just for princesses and beauty. Over time, poor sleep impacts not just our gorgeous looks, but also our vitality and overall health.
The amount of sleep differs for each of us, but there are simple ways to improve the quality. One of the the most effective ways of ensuring we get enough zzzzz's is to set our alarm clock—at night. That’s right! Set ourselves a reminder to GO to bed. If you’re like me, I can just keep going without realizing how late it is. Setting a reminder for myself to retire to bed is helpful—at least when I’m not traveling to a different time zone. (And to help with jet lag, which I never used to suffer from much until recently, I take a homeopathic herbal sleep aid to assist me so I can get some rest and enjoy my new day time zone better.)
Many of our nighttime sleep problems can be improved by changing some of our DAY-ly habits. I have yet to figure out how to cope as a sleep deprived parent except by catching up with a daytime nap—if one is so lucky! I'm a mother of two with the worst of the sleepless nights behind me, but even now with school age children, my eight year old son still wanders from his room to my bed in the middle of the night to move his arms and legs around! But, some of these tips can at least help get you to bed earlier and improve the actual hours you do sleep.
A few of the most common woes for poor sleep are:
- Yet again, what we eat impacts how well we sleep. Poor digestion, foods that disagree—even quarrel with us (why do we still eat them?!), and foods that keep us awake (sugar, caffeine, even refined grains and alcohol that spike our blood sugar levels hours after we’ve consumed them) can prevent us from falling asleep and/or achieving a truly restful night.
- Your mother was right: don’t eat right before going to bed—and especially not refined grains or sugar! If you are really hungry and can’t relax, try a high protein snack, such as handful of nuts; or if you eat meat, a very small portion of organic turkey, which contains L-tryptophan, an amino acid known for its sleep inducing benefits.
- My nighttime ritual drink (but not within one hour of bed) is Natural Calm Magnesium + Calcium mixed with warm water; or a simple tea of chamomile or lemon balm. I know red wine is a popular sleep inducer, but enjoy it for what it is—wine. It is not a sleep aid and too much of it may bring you to bed, but wake you up a few hours later when it converts to sugar.
LACK OF SLEEP PREP
- I know it's tempting to try to induce sleep by watching a little television or checking one’s news feed on Facebook or Instagram (don’t worry, those likes and double-tapped hearts will still be there the next day); or perhaps we feel compelled to check email one last time for anything 'urgent,' but unless we are really expecting something extremely time sensitive, it’s a better sleep practice to avoid 'screen' time at least one hour before lights go out. Electronic screens stimulate the brain and interfere with our body’s ability to produce melatonin (the sleep hormone). So, as difficult as it is, setting up a habit to ease into sleep time includes turning off electronic stimulation.
- Try a little soothing music or good old fashioned reading in bed can work well too—as long as we steer clear of thrillers and other page-turning novels so we can actually put our book down at some point. I’ve spent many a nights captivated by a book only to fall asleep at 2am and suffer later! My bedside favorites are biographies, travel books, spiritual reading, or I study Spanish (always makes me tired, but at least my subconscious can practice irregular verb conjugations!). I've learned not to read cookbooks before bed because they just stir my appetite!
- A warm bath with aromatherapy is also another favorite way I like to unwind from the day. And my ideal pre-sleep ritual would be a hot detoxifying salt bath and lavender oil in my candle lit bathroom, pranayama anuloma viloma (yogic alternate nostril breathing), an easy restorative yoga sequence or one great relaxation pose. I love supta baddha konasana because I can prep it so easily in bed, and a short evening meditation of gratitude to the universe for giving me yet another beautiful day to live. It’s an amazing way to prepare one’s mind, body, and soul for a blissful night of rest and wake up rejuvenated for another beautiful day!
LACK OF DARKNESS
- It’s really important to sleep in a pitch dark room. Even the smallest light such as the red light from an alarm clock or some other electronic device can disrupt the production of melatonin and serotonin. Turning off our phones is also important. Not only do we want to prevent disturbing notification sounds, but we also want to limit hours of unnecessary radiation exposure. I know many children want a little light to fall asleep. My children slept in completely darkened rooms the first years of their lives without asking for a night light, but more recently they have been asking for the hall light, but I've explained to them that this only prevents them from falling asleep and can disrupt their circadian rhythm. Our compromise is to leave the bedroom doors open for a little ambient light, but after they have fallen asleep, I shut the doors so they are in pitch dark rooms—with a little window open for fresh air.
ESTABLISH A SLEEP ROUTINE
Once we've removed troublemaking foods and drinks from our diet (or our children’s diets if they suffer from poor sleeping habits), it’s time to start establishing a sleep schedule. Sticking as close to a routine as possible is not just for kids, but extremely helpful for adults too. I realize that travel, work, and business with others in different time zones is challenging and we all have to work around those obstacles. I know this well—my poor husband trades financial markets, so he sometimes has to wake up in the middle of the night when the Chinese market opens! But, the more aware we are of keeping consistency in our sleep, the better we can reinforce it into our routine—even when we travel.
CREATE A SANCTUARY
Making the bedroom a peaceful sanctuary keeps the energy harmonious and balanced. That means clearing clutter, organizing the space, removing work materials, and adding pretty flowers and candles. I find it’s important to buy the best bedding one can afford and I prefer white bed linens to limit my exposure to added dyes. Our bedroom—whether it’s clean and minimal, pretty and frilly, or sexy chic, should be a place we can relax and retreat to from the stress of the day!
This may all seem like common sense, but since millions of people suffer from poor sleep or chronic insomnia, it’s one of the most important questions I ask my clients: please describe the quantity and quality of your sleep . . . ?
And, of course it goes without saying to remove all makeup and go to bed with a clean face—preferably with chemical free oils or skin products!
Wishing you health, happiness, and blissful sleep,
Note: for people who suffer from chronic insomnia, it’s important to see a specialist and rule out sleep apnea, which is a very serious condition that affects millions of people.