Did you sleep well last night? I hope so because while you were sleeping your body received a tune-up. During sleep our bodies rebuild and repair from the inside out. In fact, sleep is one of the best ways to manage stress and its effects on the body, including its impact on our largest organ, the skin.
When we are deprived of deep sleep the brain initiates a process called the stress response. It is intended to be of limited duration, however, sustained inability to sleep a full night causes an exaggerated and prolonged stress response that can have detrimental effects on the body. These include increased blood glucose, heart rate and blood pressure.
Prolonged exposure to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol also leads to inflammation in the body, which can surface as a skin condition such as acne, psoriasis, eczema or atopic dermatitis.
This article on stress management is Number 5 in a 5 part series from the professionals at the Vail Vitality Center. We created this series for all clients suffering from stress and struggling with how to manage it in their lives. Stress is a very real concern for almost everyone that’s why we have taken the time to share our knowledge with you. Learn how to manage stress using a variety of modalities. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
Lack of sleep can worsen existing skin conditions and leads to the need for more treatment and skin care to remedy breakouts and increased skin sensitivity. It detracts from your skin’s natural healthy glow, and exacerbates immune-related skin issues, which often are early indicators of body inflammation. And, inflammation in the body increases risk for numerous serious and debilitating diseases, including Alzheimer’s, congestive heart and kidney failure, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke and many more.
Too little sleep also causes hydration imbalance, leading to puffy eyes and under-eye circles, as well as overall dryness and more visible lines and wrinkles; it accelerates the aging process, preventing the repair of damaged cells. Sleep deprivation also leads to weight gain.
Deep sleep allows our biological functions to align their rhythms with each other. These functions include respiration, blood pressure, and brainwave activity.
In addition, melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain during deep sleep. This hormone is a potent antioxidant; a substance that destroys O2 free radicals that harm cells and DNA. Melatonin is a powerful hormone for building the immune system. Without deep sleep and melatonin production we can double our risk of obesity, heart disease and several types of cancer.
Below are a few tips for achieving a good night’s sleep:
- Sleep in total darkness for more melatonin production. Even a small amount of light hitting our closed eyelids drastically reduces our melatonin production. If your bedroom is not dark enough, wear an eye mask. Red is the only color of light that does not disrupt this process.
- Go to bed by 10 p.m. and wake up by 6 a.m. Research confirms that sleeping during this time is optimal for your health. Melatonin production spikes between midnight and 1 a.m., so this is an excellent time to experience deep sleep.
- Manage stress throughout the day. Stress interferes with sleep, so try to participate in activities that emphasize deep breathing to reduce stress, such as yoga, weight lifting, cardio exercises, and walks in nature. Receive regular massage to stay in touch with accumulating tension in the body.
- Eat a light dinner earlier rather than later in the evening. Digestion affects good sleep.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol interrupts natural sleep stages, pushing you into deep sleep first, and skipping much-needed REM sleep. It also dehydrates the body and the organs.
- Take a warm magnesium bath, which has profound relaxation effects on the muscular and nervous systems.
- Create a restful bedroom environment. Keep it free from clutter to reduce agitation. Use an aromatherapy diffusor with pure essential oils, such as lavender, pine, or jasmine, to calm the mind.
Stress Managements Series
- Part 1: Unexpected or uncontrolled weight gain? Fix it with stress management. By Dr Ben Stone.
- Part 2: Utilizing a personal trainer to handle stress. By Blake Gould
- Part 3: Stress Management and Yoga: How does it really help? By Julia Clarke.
- Part 4: Combat stress with the Simple 1-2-3! By Angela Muzic
Lisa DeKoster is The Spa manager at the Vail Vitality Center. She also is a licensed esthetician.