We all know that sleep is essential. Everything from your brain to your body function depends on quality shuteye that some of us struggle to reach each night. The long-term effects can take a toll on your skin, mental health, and general well-being. There’s a reason why it’s called beauty sleep, after all.
What’s more, getting enough sleep has become a taboo amongst parents since the dawn of time. But what really happens when you don’t get enough shut-eye at night?
Here’s our rundown of why restorative sleep matters:
What is restorative sleep?
In a nutshell, restorative sleep is essential for your brain and body systems to repair, heal and grow. Cells regenerate, muscle tissue relaxes, and when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, your body feels refreshed and ready to take on the following days offerings!
Within an ideal night’s sleep, your body goes through four to five stages of 90-minute cycles. This generally looks like: wake, light sleep, deep sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and repeat. As you move from Non-REM to REM, your body is taking you through your natural sleep-wake or circadian rhythm that occurs every 24hours.
You’ll notice that you are more drowsy and ready for rest as the day wears on as your body releases Melatonin – the sleepy hormone – throughout your system. It helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle, naturally lowers your body temperature and sends a signal to your brain that sleep is coming.
Quality vs quantity
The teens among us may feel like they’ve reached the next level after a 12-hour napping session, but it turns out quantity is not all it’s cracked up to be.
According to Professor of Psychiatry Thomas Neylan M.D., “lower-quality sleep is associated with cognitive problems.” Meaning grumpier mornings, mood swings and trouble focusing on the task at hand.
Poor sleep can encourage inflammation, leading to a whole host of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers. So even if you are topping the charts with the length of sleep time, you may still be missing out on that much-needed restorative sleep your body craves.
Rewind to your formative years, and the whole process of getting used to the patterns of night and day has been rudimentary to your natural sleep cycle development. Over time, with added pressures from work, homelife and the like and you’ve likely had your fair share of restless nights.
Sleep = mental wellbeing boost
Remember how you felt this morning after all that tossing and turning? You couldn’t switch off, and the x, y, z of the following day was playing havoc with your mind. You wake up moody, irritable and just plain grumpy.
Over time, all those sleepless nights can turn into “sleep debt,” fuelling long-term mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
According to an NHS survey, when a group of people with anxiety and depression were asked to calculate their sleeping habits, it turned out most of them racked up less than 6 hours a night. When you think back to the 4-5 90 minute sleep cycles, you need at least 7 hours to fulfil the quota.
The impact on your skin
Typical signs of sleep deprivation include the standard swollen, sunken eyes and pale, dehydrated skin. But when you get to the heart of the matter, you soon realise that the subclinical consequences are less obvious:
- Collagen production is reduced – more wrinkles and fine lines are the least of your worries!
- Wound healing is less effective as that all-important cell regeneration time is limited
- Increased outbreaks of acne, eczema, psoriasis and skin allergies
- Skin hydration and skin texture appears dull
What’s more, dark circles appear due to an increase in cortisol – the stress hormone that your body produces more when you are tired. This increase then causes your blood vessels to swell to cope with the increased volume of blood in your system. Your body enters a “fight or flight” response to make you more alert when you have missed out on that all-important sleep.
According to the “Sleep Doctor” Dr Michael Breus, your “growth hormone peaks during sleep, and this plays a central role in initiating cellular repair.” Without that much-needed shuteye, your body increases oil production, and you are more likely to face acne breakouts.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce the impact on your skin, such as:
- Finding time to relax – this could be a sleep triggering bath, yoga or increasing your daily exercise
- Creating a steller daily skincare routine that includes a gentle cleanser, exfoliator and that all-important moisturiser
- Invest in a treatment to plump up the skin around your eyes, such as London’s popular Tear Trough Treatment
Sleep boosts your immune system
Feel like you’re always catching every cold and bug that passes you by? Your bedtime could likely be to blame.
Not only does a prolonged lack of sleep make you more susceptible to viruses, but your immune system has to work harder, and your recovery time is likely to take much longer too. Whether it’s the common cold or the flu, your body depends on you getting a good nights sleep.
Fight off weight gain
Have you ever wondered why losing the pounds is such as upward battle? According to the NHS, “people who sleep less than 7 hours a day tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of becoming obese than those who get 7 hours of slumber.”
When you struggle to sleep, your body produces less leptin – the chemical that makes you feel full – so not only are you fighting off the hunger pangs throughout the day, but your brain almost tricks you into reaching for the extra muffin you know you don’t need! The reason why; instead of leptin, your body produces higher levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin.
Sleep is one of the most powerful tools your body and mind has to fight off infection and to keep everything from your skin to weight ticking along nicely. What will you do to ensure you get the best night’s sleep possible?