Poor Sleep: How it's Ruining Your Skin
If you don't sleep well, you'll understand how important it is for....well, feeling like a real human.
If you do....well, you have no idea how lucky you are!
Beyond feeling good, we've found that sleep is also essential when treating acne, rosacea and premature skin aging.
While we all know that sleep is important blah blah blah...it's too often something we don't prioritize until it's really bad.
Even if it's not life-alteringly terrible, uneven not-so-great sleep should still be addressed. And, if you're struggling with chronic skin issues, it's something we believe should be part of your skin prescription. Cuz if you're struggling with poor sleep, it's affecting your skin (keep reading).
Sleep and Skin
Proper sleep is needed to heal and repair the heart and blood vessels. In fact, chronic sleep deficiency is correlated to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
One of the reasons proposed for this link between poor sleep and poor health, is the inflammation caused when we lack sufficient rest. This may also be why we see an affect on inflammatory skin conditions.
We have seen lack of sleep correlated with aggravating rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and even acne.
Another reason may be that sleep can affect our blood glucose levels. Sleep deficiency has been linked to poor glucose metabolism and insulin resistance. This, coincidentally, has also been shown to imbalance hormones (and in turn skin, breakouts, etc).
Beyond this, sleep is key for a healthy immune system. This means that a good night's rest plays a role in helping fight foreign infections and protect against the damages of harmful substances.
Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds, leading to vulnerability to illness and infection. This may decrease defenses against skin infections.
Observationally, we have noted that cystic acne lesions heal much more slowly when the immune system is compromised.
Sleep and Hormones
Good quality sleep supports our endocrine system.
This is of particular interest to us for hormonal imbalances and conditions associated with acne.
Looking at our hormones, while certainly not the only causative factor, is important. Without properly addressing sleep related issues, there may be what is called "an obstacle to cure": namely, something that hinders us from rebalancing and healing.
But sleep can also play a role in the quality of our skin.
During deep sleep, the body triggers the release of growth hormones, which are important in promoting cell reproduction and keeping our tissues resilient and youthful.
How much is enough sleep?
Insomnia is considered chronic if experienced for over a month. Symptoms can include:
1. Difficulty falling asleep at night
2. Awakening during the night
3. Awakening too early
4. Not feeling well rested after a night's sleep
5. Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
6. Irritability, depression or anxiety
7. Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
8. Increased errors or accidents
9. Tension headaches
10. Distress in the stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract)
11. Ongoing worries about sleep
If this sounds like you, one way to confirm what's going on is by doing a sleep study. That way you can also look at specific sleep conditions.
Getting Better Sleep
We hope you're sold on the importance of getting better sleep. Even if it's for vanity, we'll take it!
Here's some useful info on how to make that happen.
It might sound counterintuitive but research has found that limiting your available sleep time can help your insomnia.
In sleep restriction therapy, you set a bedtime and wake-up time and adhere to those times closely.
This is determined from an estimate of how long the patient has already been sleeping at night.
For example, if you usually spend 8 hours in bed but sleep only 6 hours overall (due to tossing and turning), your initial set sleep time is 6 hours.
You cannot go to bed early, get up late or take naps. This forces a defined sleep window and the window is gradually increased until you are sleeping the entire time you are in bed.
The goal is to eliminate daytime sleepiness and excess time spent in bed!
Getting deep rest also involves setting up the right environment and mindset for rest. This is referred to as 'sleep hygiene'.
Here are some tips for cleaning up your sleep hygiene to tackle poor sleep and support your skin's health.
1. Avoid napping during the day.
2. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime.
4. Stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems - if you're having sleep problems, look at any changes to your eating habits.
5. Get adequate exposure to natural light during the day. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
6. Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid stressful situations or mulling over things that prompt stress before bedtime
7. Associate your bed with sleep. This means creating a Zen space. Avoid being in bed while you watch TV, do work or go online. You need to associate your bed and bedroom with rest. We will admit the screen time one is haaaaard for us.
8. Make sure that your sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. Your bed should be comfortable, the room shouldn't be too hot, too cold or too bright.
Sometimes it helps to give yourself a boost with herbs and natural supplements. However, you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking anything new.
Chamomile Tea - An ingredient in almost every sleepy-time tea. Some research has found that chamomile has benzodiazepine-like effects. While we don't want to get over-excited, we do see chamomile's calming effect (topically on the skin too).
Melatonin - Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin can help improve the quality and duration of sleep. It is particularly good for getting your sleep pattern back on track when travelling across time zones.
Valerian - This herbal root has been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment for more than 2,000 years. A fav around here, even though it smells like pungent dirt (yum). We find it useful to conk out during long haul flights
Kava Kava - Kava Kava is another anti-anxiety plant. It is most often used for stress-related insomnia. The American Academy of Family Physicians says that short-term use of kava is okay for patients with mild to moderate anxiety but is not to be taken with alcohol or in combination with other meds that are taxing to the liver.
Passionflower - Passionflower isn't so much a sleep aid herb as a relaxation aid. This is why it can also be good for muscle tension.
A personal note from Kristen: "While passion flower is gentle, I admit that the first time I took it, my body and muscles felt so relaxed and loose that it kinda freaked me out. But after I got over the discomfort of being...well, comfortable, I loved it."
Image by Anthony Tran via unsplash
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