By Olivia Arezzolo
When it comes to our health, sleep is everything. Put simply, it's a non-negotiable biological function essential for life.
When we clock up eight hours or more, our morning alarm can feel like a gentle reminder that it’s time to start the day. Whereas on the nights where we don’t get enough shut-eye, that same alarm can feel like an unwelcome shock to the system.
Sleep affects everything from our memory to our cognitive function, stress levels, emotional wellbeing and even our skin health. Here, Australia's Leading Sleep Expert Olivia Arezzolo explains the vital processes our body goes through during the wee hours of the night—plus, how to sleep better, starting tonight.
Is There A Connection Between Sleep And Skin Health?
Yes, definitely. Sleep is critical for skin health due to its relationship with collagen, and it’s preceding catalyst, human growth hormone (hGh). Specifically, Research shows 70% of human growth hormone (hGh) is produced in slow wave (deep) sleep. This means that with deep sleep, comes hGh, then comes collagen, then comes youthful, supple, smooth skin.
Furthermore, a clinical study found good sleepers have a 30% higher skin recovery rate after UV exposure, compared to poor sleepers.
We All Know How Good It Feels To Wake Up After A Restful Night Of Sleep. Why Sleep Is So Important For Our Body And Overall Health?
For our physical energy levels, sleep is vital. As noted above, 70% of hGh is produced in deep sleep, which is not only responsible for skin health, but repair of every single cell in the body. Thus, with inadequate repair time, you are likely to wake feeling worn out and exhausted.
Mentally, during deep sleep our brains detoxify from beta amyloid, a neurotoxin that can otherwise contribute to brain fog, memory loss, and long term, Alzeihmer's disease. After only one night of insufficient sleep, this can increase by 5%, let alone weeks, months or years of inadequate sleep.
Lastly, emotionally, after one night of insufficient sleep, stress hormone cortisol can increase up to 37%, leaving us feeling wired, anxious and on edge.
However, this extends further to our wellbeing too. For example:
- We are four times more likely to catch a cold when we are sleeping six hours rather than seven
- Sleeping less than five hours a night, long-term, increases our risk of cardiovascular disease by 45%
- Sleeping less than five hours increases our risk of developing type two diabetes by five times
- We are more likely to have a road accident as 20% of all fatal accidents in Victoria are attributed to driver fatigue, and it’s four times more likely to cause an impairment than drugs or alcohol
- In the case of insomniacs, those with chronic sleep loss are 17 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder, and 10 times more likely to suffer depression.
For Anyone Who Struggles To Drift Off, What Can They Do To Improve Their Quality Of Sleep?
I have a signature bedtime routine which, when used in private practice, 100% of my private clients have seen improvements in their sleep in less than seven days.
The routine looks like this:
- Block out blue light a minimum two hours before bed. In the presence of blue light, our sleepiness hormone melatonin is suppressed, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Perspectively, a 2020 study found those wearing blue light-blocking glasses were able to fall asleep 79% faster, compared to a group wearing placebo (fake) glasses.
- Take lavender capsules. A 2010 study published in academic journal Phytomedicine noted that lavender oil capsules could improve sleep quality by 45%, and reduce anxiety by 59%, making it an ideal option for those who can’t switch off in the evening.
- Disconnect from tech. A 2012 study found that being on your phone in the last hour before bed increases the likelihood that you’ll take over an hour to fall asleep by 48%. Make it easy for yourself by having an alarm that reminds you to disconnect, and label this alarm ‘sleep better’.
- Take a shower. By emerging from a steamy shower to a cooler bathroom, your core body temperature drops and sleepiness hormone melatonin is produced, as noted by a 2019 study lead by The University of Texas at Austin. Ideally, this is one hour before bed too.
- Take a magnesium-based sleep supplement. A 2017 paper by The University of Leeds highlighted magnesium could reduce anxiety by 31% which can otherwise contribute to restless, light sleep.
- Read. A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found this can reduce stress by 68%, with the effects starting in just six minutes. Naturally, my book recommendation has to be my own: Bear, Lion, or Wolf.
- Wear an eye mask. Remember, blocking out light is the number one way to improve your sleep, and that includes through the evening.