Lately it seems to me that sleep is such a valuable commodity, I wish I could bottle and sell it. So many of my clients are having problems with sleeping properly during this season of so much change. This Vata weather must have induced a restlessness in us not only conjuring up sleeplessness but also some anxious, Vata thoughts. I just lay awake at night thinking about all the things I have to do. I get really stressed out them- then I start thinking about how my lack of sleep is making me break out, and I get really stressed out about that!” one of my clients told me on the massage table. “I work until 2am at night sometimes – you’d think I’m exhausted, but I actually am wired just thinking: What am I doing with my life?” another said to me.
This lack of beauty sleep doesn’t only make us feel less energetic, less healthy and less focused – but it also makes us break out, our skin dehydrated and signs of aging accelerate.
Beauty Sleep: Scientifically Proven
This was a topic which came up during a seminar on Anti-aging I attended while in New York last week attending the annual HBA trade show. (The actual talk was about Sirtuins and Stem Cells in skincare led by a panel of cosmetic research scientists representing Estee Lauder and a handful of stand alone research companies).
I found this very interesting because one researcher discussed the concept of Circadian Rhythm on our skin which is a known factor in Ayurveda and other alternative schools of thought, but now was being explained in scientific terms (Did I mention this was from people who were talking about stem cells in skincare?).
He and his team had been particularly interested in their study of “clock genes” which are found within our cells and allow synchronization of cellular activity with the Circadian Cycle. (For those of you who are not familiar with Circadian Rhythm, it is the 24 hour cycle which outlines how our bodies behave through the day and their physiological changes.) In relation to the skin, they observed how we repaired at night as these clock genes induce protective antioxidants.
Each cell has its own clock which was governed by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus, which understands “night” in relation to light, food and activity in our bodies, and is found in the Hypothalamus (“The Master Clock”). Also note that the Hypothalamus is a communicator between the Nervous System and the Hormonal system.
They observed that when clock genes were synchronized with the Circadian Clock, it enhanced the skin’s resistance to UV damage and enabled our cells to restore themselves. But that clock genes could not synchronize after Sun burn as UV damage caused DNA damage (!). So, there goes the hopes for sunbathing sans sunscreen after a good night’s rest.
Beauty Sleep and Ayurvedic Rhythms
To me this was all so interesting – firstly because I’m as a Vainitista, it really reinforced the necessity of getting to bed instead of watching old episodes of Mad Men on the Internet – but Secondly, because science proved Ayurvedic dictations again – as the effect of Time of Day has been known for thousands of years and the importance of sleep for repair a given. Ayurveda’s ideology coincides with the idea of Circadian Rhythm as each Dosha expresses itself at different times of the day and this influences our bodies greatly.
Kapha is strongest at 6am-10am and 6pm-10pm
Pitta is strongest at 10am-2pm and 10pm-2am
Vata is strongest at 2am- 6am and 2pm-6pm
The Ayurvedic Schedule
This is the basis Ayurvedic recommendations on lifestyle. For example:
– Waking up during Kapha time in the morning flushes out our lethargy in the morning (accounts for why we feel like tired, heavy Kaphas when we over-sleep).
– Eating our biggest meal during Pitta time in the afternoon (lunch) will help us digest our food as our digestive fire is at its height with Pitta energy. We should also not eat heavily after sun down (approx. 6pm) as Kapha again is at its peak and will not move food through our systems well.
– Sleeping before early during Kapha evening time (before 10pm) helps us sleep well and avoids being awake and active during Vata time (2am) in which our Vata energy will not allow our minds to be at peace.
Ayurveda also states that this clock can expose our imbalances. If you have troubles falling asleep – you have excess Vata in your body, but if you fall asleep and wake up, it is an excess Pitta (heat) issue.
So while we may think staying up can help us get ahead giving us more time to work, to plan and to troubleshoot, a lack of sleep damages our energetic balance and depletes our tissues. And while its easier said than done, disciplining ourselves to turn off our mental activity will help us preserve our health. So put on your PJs a little earlier tonight, if not for proper Doshic behavior, for more beautiful skin.