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Beauty Sleep It’s The Real Deal

Why getting a solid eight hours of shut-eye every night will keep you looking and feeling younger longer…
 
By Adriana Ermter
 
Waking up puffy-faced and red-eyed, feeling grumpy and fumbling with the coffee maker? Been there, done that. In fact, not getting enough sleep is so common, it has somehow earned humble-bragging rights around the office water cooler. And we never tire of talking about it: how many hours we slept the night before, how to deal with jet lag and sleeping on planes, tips and tricks for getting a solid eight hours…the list goes on. Yet at the end of the day, when it comes to counting sheep, how big of a deal can it really be? And how many sheep are enough?
 
On average, doctors recommend we need seven to nine hours of sleep each night – yet one third of the adult population isn’t getting anywhere near those numbers. And it shows. We’re wearing our lack of sleep front and centre on our faces, with every fine line and blue-tinged under-eye bag. And with each lost hour comes weight gain, increased stress and accelerated facial aging.
 
Know your zzzs
Sleep provides us with a number of physical and psychological functions.One of the activities keeping our brains busy during sleep is referred to as housekeeping. Brain housekeeping is when the brain checks and repairs itself, ensuring neural pathways are functioning well and toxins that have built up during the day are removed. “It’s also a time when the brain cleans up its stored memories, a process increasingly compared to organizing files on a computer,” says Jeff Zeilstra, the manager of high performance at Fatigue Science in Vancouver.“Like a computer, scientists believe, an organized brain is better able to process higher-level cognitive tasks such as learning, decision-making and reasoning.” When you don’t get your full eight hours each night, these functions are compromised, and can be blamed for signs of aging such as memory loss, inability to move easily, joint and muscular pain, heart attacks and aging skin.
 
Sleeping Beauty was on to something
Your body interprets a lack of sleep as a state of emergency, causing it to produce more hormones. These hormones then tell the body to divert oxygen and nutrients away from your skin and internal organs. “A reduction in sleep duration is associated with an increase in blood cortisol levels and decreased growth hormone release, both of which contribute to creating a catabolic state [destructive metabolism],”explains Zeilstra. “Simply put, lack of sleep contributes to a negative protein balance by reducing repair mechanisms and stimulating those resulting in muscular and cellular degradation.” And when your skin doesn’t get what it needs, it can break out with acne, look dull and feel dry, and dark under-eye circles, puffiness and fine lines crop up everywhere.
 
Pillow talk your way to anti-aging
“Everyone wants to look young and attractive for as long as possible, and your skin needs to maintain its collagen and circulation levels to ensure that,” says Toula Bintas, an aesthetician and co-owner of Allazo Skin Care in Toronto. While you sleep, your body creates collagen – the structural protein found in skin that gives it a youthful and plump appearance. Approximately 50-plus hours of sleep per week is optimal, so if “you only get five hours each night, you may end up having twice as many fine lines,” says Bintas. Even before the batches of crow’s feet pop up, you’ll probably experience under-eye circles, puffiness and a dull complexion.
 
Puffy eyes tend to appear smaller and squinty, while under-eye circles range between blue, purple, black and even yellow hues. As we get older, both increase in size and darkness. Puffy eyes and dark circles can be attributed to your family DNA, but when you don’t get enough rest, the circulation in your face decreases, and swelling and blood can pool in the under-eye area, making puffiness and circles become more pronounced. This lack of circulation also impacts your complexion, often giving it a dull, dark appearance. “When we’re asleep, we’re still and not moving, allowing more blood to flow and circulate in our skin,” says Bintas. “So when you wake up, you look more refreshed and healthy, and your skin will most likely have a youthful glow.”
 
Create a sleep schedule
Start by locking down a consistent sleep schedule that allows you to have seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Consistency is key, so write down your schedule and set up bedtime reminders on your phone. Limit caffeine in general and avoid it after 4 pm. “Avoid naps and sleeping in on days off,” advises Zeilstra. “Having a hot shower before bedtime stimulates melatonin, your sleep hormone production – but avoid using technology 30 minutes to an hour before bed. The light from your TV, smartphone and laptop screens delay or reduce sleep hormone production.”Set your bedroom temperature between 19.5–20.5°C (67–69°F), and reduce noise with earplugs or a fan/white-noise machine.
 

Nighttime products to help you unwind and sleep easy
 
1. Aveda Singular Note Lavender Fleurs Oil, $29, available at Aveda stores.
Massage a few calming, relaxing drops onto your pillowcase before bedtime to help lull you to sleep.
 
2. Mediflow Floating Comfort Pillow, $36, available online at www.mediflow.ca.
Eliminate neck pain with this pillow’s water-based technology that allows you to sleep easy.
 
3. Cilque Eye Mask, $45, available online at cilque.com.
Get some shut-eye with a silky-smooth mask that covers your eyes without irritating your skin.
 
4. LectroFan EVO, from $69, available online at soundofsleep.com.
Neutralize noise with 22 digital sounds, including white noise, the ocean surf and a whirring fan.
 

 
ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.
 

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