Do you toss and turn at night, missing out on your beauty sleep?

If so, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s poll, 48 percent of Americans have occasional insomnia and 22 percent experience sleeplessness most nights. Interestingly, women are more likely to report insomnia than men, and people over age 65 are more likely to complain of insomnia than younger people.

Is “beauty sleep” a myth?

No, it’s not a myth! We need consistent high-quality sleep for many reasons, including looking and feeling more vibrant (and thus more beautiful).

If you suffer from sleep problems, you raise your risk for:

  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Low motivation
  • Poorer overall health
  • More missed workdays
  • Depression

Sleep is essential to help us say energized, manage stress, remain focused and positive, ward off infections, and age gracefully.

Why is sleep so important?

Our bodies are designed to go thru five sleep stages (stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM), with the purpose of each stage varying slightly from person to person. These five stages combine to create one sleep cycle, and it takes around 90 minutes to complete one cycle. Ideally, we experience five sleep cycles each night.

During our deepest levels of sleep (stages 3 and 4), our bodies release growth hormone (GH). One of the many things that GH does is help repair our body’s tissue from all the damage it experienced during the day. Deep sleep is also the time when our organ systems, such as our digestive system, get to rest, and when our immune system and skin repairs.

What is beauty sleep?

Sleep gives your body time to restore itself in a variety of ways, particularly when it releases growth hormone during the deep sleep cycles. But, your body also experiences lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and higher levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin. All three of these hormonal changes assist with graceful aging.

In addition, you continue to perspire while you sleep, which allows the moisture to re-enter your skin, hydrating it. Because of this, skincare products applied before sleep are particularly beneficial for their rehydrating and anti-aging effects.

Of course, while you sleep at night, your skin also doesn’t get any sun exposure, another boost to sleep’s restorative power. While lying prone, your skin also doesn’t experience the effects of gravity, probably the greatest contributor to wrinkles and sagging. And, finally, lying flat increases blood flow to your skin. All of these factors combine to create beauty sleep.

How do you know if you are getting a good night’s sleep?

Ideally, you want to wake without an alarm clock. If you wake at the same time every morning, it programs your internal clock to adjust your sleep cycles so you can wake up without hitting snooze. Ultimately, you will feel refreshed when you wake up after about 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

What is the #1 contributor to poor sleep?

Emotional upset, such as feeling stressed and anxious, is the #1 contributor to not entering rejuvenating deep sleep. Performing stress management exercises can help you enter the restorative stages of sleep.

How do I naturally improve my restorative beauty sleep?

Step 1. Finish up tasks so you feel comfortable letting them go until tomorrow. If you have several things lingering, just make a list and agree that they can wait until tomorrow. You should do this at least 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime so you have time for the following steps.

Step 2. Turn off electronics – computers, cell phones, iPads, TVs, etc. – and dim your lights. This change in light exposure helps signal your brain to start producing melatonin, the hormone you need to maintain high-quality sleep.

Step 3. Enjoy a beauty ritual – including removing makeup, brushing teeth, flossing, applying face treatments, and whatever else you need to do to prepare yourself for bed. Think of this as a pampering process. (Tip: Washing your face and body before bed helps hydrate your skin. But, since water has a high pH level, end with a mildly acidic skin care product to restore your skin’s ideal pH and ensure a night of skin repair.)

Step 4. Have some relaxation time. Take a bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil. You can also practice meditation, gratitude journal writing, or other relaxation techniques. One reason baths are great is that, when you get out, it creates a change in body temperature from hot to cool, which helps signal your brain to release melatonin.

Step 5. Ensure your bedroom is a comfortable, cool temperature and turn out the lights so it’s pitch black. Light is one of the biggest factors in prohibiting sleep because it prevents melatonin production at night. (Tip: The best room temperature for optimal sleeping is somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees).

Here are a few more important tips:

  1. If you still can’t sleep, try guided imagery, progressive relaxation, counting techniques, and other practices that release anxiety and ease you into sleep. Also, try adding some background noise, such as running a wave sound machine or fan.
  2. Ensure you have a mattress and pillow that provide good support and keep your body in proper alignment, as well as bedding that is soft and welcoming.
  3. Avoid alcohol and sugar within an hour of bedtime, and caffeine after lunchtime. They’re dehydrating and can interfere with sleep cycles.
  4. Exercise regularly, but not within 5 to 6 hours of bedtime.
  5. If you’re a bedtime reader, read printed materials or get a shield that goes across your Kindle/e-reader that shifts the light to a more sleep-friendly version.
  6. Enjoy a cup of herbal tea an hour or two before bedtime. Herbal teas containing hops, passionflower, lemon balm, wild oats, chamomile, or valerian can help promote relaxation.
  7. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day/night to support your body’s circadian rhythm, and allow enough time for 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Important Note about Melatonin: Many people pop melatonin as though it were a simple supplement. Melatonin is a hormone, so be careful with supplementation! Most melatonin sold is in over-dosage amounts. If you do need extra sleep support, melatonin changes your circadian rhythm and can help reset your internal clock, especially after a time change or travel. The more appropriate dose for people who need extra support is only 0.5 to 1 mg.

To give it time to kick in, take melatonin 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime. It’s only for occasional use, so please don’t take it every day and ensure you get it from a high-quality source. Otherwise, you’ll create more imbalances and have more sleep problems.

I hope these steps and tips help you achieve the best beauty sleep. Sweet dreams!