There’s a reason why the simple act of sleeping is referred to as 'Beauty Sleep’, as it can have a profound impact on how you look , feel and function, along with your longevity.
While sleep is not an option the quality of our slumber is. Deep sleep boosts your immune system, improves your cognition and short-term memory, enhances your moods and balances your hormones.
After a good quality sleep, you wake feeling energised and ready to cope physically and emotionally with whatever the day brings. Great sleep also supports your skin and digestive health.
Conversely, poor sleep can make you feel depressed, forgetful and lethargic. It impairs your ability to regulate glucose and increases the body's levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
In the long term, insufficient sleep can increase your risk of suffering from high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
But most of us are not getting enough (all adults require seven to nine hours a night to rest, repair and restore their body and mind). Not getting enough sleep can also increase the rate at which your skin ages because it is less able to recover from free radical damage caused by the sun and environmental toxins. That’s because while you are sleeping our body secretes growth hormones that stimulate cellular repair along with the production of collagen and new skin cells.
Once upon a time, the fading light at sunset would signal your pineal gland to begin releasing melatonin (often called “the hormone of darkness”).
When your internal body clock (or circadian rhythm) is working properly, melatonin levels in your blood are meant to rise about two hours before bed and encourage you to start feeling sleepy.
Melatonin is also a free-radical scavenging, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory hormone that plays a vital role in the repair work that unfolds while you sleep.
When the sun rises and sunlight hits the retina of your eyes, your melatonin levels are meant to drop away and be replaced by serotonin, the happy, calm hormone that helps you feel good all day.
Nowadays, our internal clocks get confused and our melatonin and serotonin cycle is interrupted by flying between time zones, working late into the night and using artificial light, television screens and other back-lit devices. We also stimulate our brains right up until bed time with non-stop data and often an addiction to screens and social media.
But just as you sometimes reset your digestive system with a detox, you can take some simple steps to clean up your sleep routine, stimulate melatonin production (which drops dramatically after the age of 40) and get your circadian rhythm back on track.
Setting up a sleep routine with clear steps to prepare you for bed can help you enjoy deep restorative sleep and reap the benefits it delivers to your brain, body and beauty.
STEP ONE: CALM DOWN
To switch your nervous system from a state of fight or flight to rest and restore mode, try doing one, some, or all of the below half an hour before bed:
Meditation for 10 to 20 minutes, lying with your legs up the wall for five to ten minutes, restorative yoga or deep belly breathing exercises all help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system to restore calm.
Practicing one of them during daylight hours, can also help stop excess stress building up and interrupting your sleep later on that night.
STEP TWO: SPOIL YOURSELF
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is believed the energy in your head needs to descend before you go to bed. So you could try soaking your feet in a hot bath.
The ancient science of Ayurveda prescribes a daily dose of self-massage with cold-pressed sesame oil, starting from the soles of your feel and working all the way up to your scalp to soothe the thousands of nerve endings in your skin.
Follow your massage with a hot shower or soak in a warm bath with a few drops of lavender oil or a cup of magnesium salts to relax your muscles.
After cleansing your face thoroughly, gently massage it with a beauty-boosting hydrating formula that supports the repair and rejuvenation process that the sleep cycle brings.
The Beauty Chef Dream Repair Serum, is a super-charged, Certified Organic serum, packed full of active natural ingredients including six beauty-enhancing vitamins (A, B, C, E, K and P) and four skin-smoothing and rejuvenating omegas (3, 6, 7 and 9) in a base of 18 botanical oils.
STEP THREE: STRETCH YOURSELF
Stretching out your tired and tight muscles can help soften the body and prepare it for sleep. If you sit for long periods in front of a computer, your neck, shoulders, lower back and hip flexors are all likely to be tight. Studies have shown that gentle yoga or stretching about an hour before bed can result in better quality sleep.
STEP FOUR: PRACTICE AN ELECTRONIC SUNDOWN
The earlier you put your screens to bed the better your sleep will be. Turn off all devices at least an hour before bed – or by 9pm at the latest.
Switch your phone on to airplane mode so you can’t hear incoming messages during the night and remove all your devices from your bedroom so you are not tempted to reach for them before going to sleep or during the night.
STEP FIVE: SOOTHE YOUR SENSES
Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark. Dim your lights at least an hour before bed. Light a calming candle or stick of incense, turn down your covers and tidy or declutter your room so it feels like a relaxing place to retreat to.
STEP SIX: MAKE A BEDTIME BREW
This could be a cup of herbal tea such as chamomile, valerian or another sleepy tea blend. Or you could try this delicious milk-infused night cap:
Anti-inflammatory Golden Milk.
1 cup of nut milk (or milk of choice)
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of powdered turmeric
Slither of fresh ginger to infuse in the blend
1 teaspoon of manuka honey
1 pinch of pepper
Blend and warm gently then sip before bed.
STEP SEVEN: READ YOURSELF A BEDTIME STORY
Choose a nourishing novel that sets you up for some sweet dreams rather than any heavy or disturbing reading material. Alternatively, inspiring biographies or affirmative self-help books can also get you in a restorative mood.
STEP EIGHT: DEVELOP A ROUTINE
Rest, restore and repeat…Going to bed and rising at the same time everyday – even on weekends will help restore your circadian rhythm to a regular pattern. Studies have shown that people who do a daily workout sleep better than those who don’t.
THINGS YOU SHOULD SKIP BEFORE BED
Alcohol: Alcohol makes you feel sleepy but actually results in lighter sleep because it causes the body to release a stimulating stress hormone called noradrenaline.
Sugar: Studies have shown that consuming sugary foods and unrefined carbohydrates before bed can raise your blood sugar levels and interfere with growth hormone production.
Caffeine: Skip dripping coffee, green tea and black tea after lunch as caffeine can remain in your system for up to five hours after you drink it.
Too much food: Eating smaller portions and eating at least two hours before bed can help you sleep more deeply.