What Happens to your Skin when you Sleep?

Posted by Renee Harris on

Beauty Sleep Time! How Sleep Helps your Skin

When I was 14 years old, there was something I'd do every night to fall asleep.

It wasn't taking melatonin. It wasn't drinking a mug of warm milk and honey. It wasn't listening to Yanni on my Sony headphones.

Nope, it was tuning in to a radio show... Sally Jessy Raphael ... to hear her spill out advice to callers young and old dealing with strained relationships, questionable morals, or simple wedding invitation protocol. 

Conversations always put me to sleep. And they still do. Turn on Ford v Ferrari and I'm asleep within 5 minutes. Even during that amazing film.

I can't promise that asking your spouse to read to you from his college Economics textbook will work to get you to sleep like it does me, but it IS important to do what you can to find your answer. Sleep is pretty critical when it comes to 3 areas of your life: physical, emotional and cognitive.

Let's focus just on physical for now. Here's what I've learned recently from Dr. Michael Brues, Ph.D., a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and author of the book Beauty Sleep. He's also known as the Sleep Doctor. 

1. What is Beauty Sleep?

It turns out, there's a stage of sleep that releases a growth hormone. The stages look like this: from being awake, you slip into stage 1, then 2. During stage 3 and then 4 is when the growth hormone is released. Then you go back to 2, and then REM.  All of that is called a sleep cycle, it lasts about 90 minutes, and you have about 5 of those throughout the night. 

2. What does the growth hormone do during stages 3 and 4?

The growth hormone helps repair tissue from all of the injuries that might have occurred during the day. This is also the time for your body to fast, and so the growth hormone acts as a protective mechanism for the tissue. 

3. What else happens while we sleep that contributes to "beauty sleep?"

When we sleep, we perspire. All of this natural moisture is actually moisturizing your skin all night long while you sleep. Your morning skin is your most glowing skin because of this. Another contributor is that by lying in a recumbent position, your blood flow changes and gravity keeps your skin from drooping like it would if you're upright. 

4. What prevents beauty sleep?

Sleep apnea, for one. When you stop breathing in your sleep, you're not hitting the stages of sleep that help with hydration. Also, not getting enough sleep. If you're hitting the snooze button more than once, you need more sleep. Falling asleep "right when your head hits the pillow" is not necessarily the healthiest, either. It's better when a 15-minute slow-to-sleep occurs. Falling asleep too quickly may mean you're sleep-deprived.  If you wake up naturally right before your alarm, your circadian rhythm has you right where you're supposed to be.

5. What's recommended for people to get a good night's sleep? 

Preparation. Anxiety is one of the biggest factors that prevents people from a good night's sleep. Don't do anything that could cause anxiety before bedtime. Walk into your room an hour before bedtime and set up a calm routine. Maybe it starts with getting clothing out for the following day, hygiene or a warm bath, and then a time of relaxation... stretches, writing, meditation, reading...

6. Any more tips for the skin?

Take a hot bath right before bed. This increases your body's core temperature. When it comes back to normal, a signal goes to your brain to release melatonin. Then fall asleep in a cool room (68-72 degrees).  Use a blue light filter if you're using a tablet. Sleep on your back if possible. Be careful about taking melatonin - people usually take too much and they take it at the wrong time. Be aware of drinking alcohol at night - it keeps you out of your beauty sleep and it's a diuretic so you actually look worse when you wake up due to being dehydrated. 

Back to my falling asleep to conversations...

I've always wondered if having my iPhone switched to Airplane Mode, with a sleep timer set to turn off a podcast or audiobook after 20 minutes, was a bad thing. I've been falling asleep this way for as long as I can remember.  Apparently not! 

It's fine for many of his patients, Dr. Brues says, "...it actually helps them occupy
their mind enough to fall asleep... it won't affect their sleep."

 Need more advice to get a good night of beauty sleep tonight? Go learn from the Sleep Doctor himself: https://thesleepdoctor.com/


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