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  • Writer's pictureDr Dara Seebaran Suite

Sleeping Beauty: Is Sleep Ageing You?

Updated: Jan 6, 2019

We have all heard the age-old adage "get enough beauty sleep", but what exactly is it about sleep that can make us beautiful? Can we influence it for the good or even to the detriment of our skin?

1. Our Skin is Safe:

When we are sleeping, our metabolic rate reduces. Free radicals are the by-products of metabolic reactions, and at night, less of these damaging molecules are formed. After sunset we are exposed to less UV radiation and pollution, further reducing free radical exposure.

2. New Collagen is Made

At night the rate of cellular regeneration increases, and between 11pm to 4am this rate actually doubles. In deep or REM sleep, the amount of collagen and elastin produced reaches its peak. This means that while we are in the land of Nod, our skin is working hard to renew itself.

3. Hormones Work in Our Favour:

After dark the stress hormone, cortisol, plummets. This hormone is responsible for thinning skin, discolouration and stretch marks. At the same time, melatonin, the "sleep" hormone, rises. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, reducing fine lines, discolouration and age spots.

So with all this regeneration, repair and renewal, is it possible for us to be working against our own skin when we sleep? Unfortunately, it is. These are the top five ways "sleep" can age us.

1. Going To Sleep Too Late: Our cellular regeneration and collagen production is at its highest between 11pm and 4 am. Going to sleep any later than 11pm, means that we are cheating our skin of its renewal potential. Try giving yourself a curfew for technology. The blue light on laptops and phones has been shown to reduce levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin. This makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

2. Sleeping with Make-Up: A third of women have admitted to sleeping with their make-up at least twice a week. This is bad news, since sleeping while wearing make-up can age the skin up to seven times faster. Seven times. Let that sink in.

Thick layers of foundation increase the level of free radicals. We know that free radicals destroy collagen. Make-up clogs pores and encourages acne breakouts and blemishes. Powders etc are occlusive, preventing night time moisturisers from acting on the skin. Sleeping in mascara and eyeliner blocks the pores of eyelash follicles, causing unsightly styes and eye infections. Mascara makes eyelashes brittle and prone to breakage. Sleeping with lipstick promotes chapped lips.

If you only do one thing during your night time routine, remove the make up! To make this easier, keep some make up wipes at your bedside.

3. Sleeping on Your Side: Most people get their most comfortable sleep lying on a side or in the fetal position. However few things could be worse for your skin at night. Firstly, the repeated pressure over the course of a lifetime can lead to " sleep wrinkles". These are longitudinal and diagonal wrinkles seen on the cheek and forehead, caused by the face being compressed against a pillow for hours on end every night.

When we are young and have high levels of collagen and elastin, these wrinkles often bounce back and fill out in the early morning. As we age they can be present for longer and longer periods of time, until they are permanent. For women, these wrinkles are also seen in the middle of the décolletage or chest area, and are caused by the weight of the breasts as we lie on our side. Secondly, sleeping on one side causes fluid to accumulate on that side during the night, making us more prone to having a puffy face or swollen eyes in the morning.

The best remedy for this is to sleep on your back, ideally with the smallest of elevations to encourage fluid to drain away from your face. Most people will need to train themselves to sleep on their backs, and for those who find it impossible there are a range of pressure-relieving pillows designed to reduce the " wrinkle-forces". I also advise my clients to switch to satin pillow cases as these are more gentle on both your skin and hair.

4. Sleeping on Dirty Bed Linen: Our skin is constantly shedding dead cells and surface bacteria, which accumulates on our bed linen. For women, un-removed make up and other dirt that we have gathered on our skin during the day time also accumulates on the bed sheets. Rubbing your face against this collection of dirt, dead cells and old foundation can contribute to acne and irritable skin, especially for those who sleep on a side. The remedy to this is wash your bed linen regularly, ideally every week. Avoid detergants with too much added fragrance as these can also be an irritant to the skin.

5. Sleeping Without Any Moisturiser: Have you ever got up in the middle of the night with a parched throat? At night, the amount of water we lose through evaporation and from our skin increases substantially. This drying out of our skin can be exacerbated by sleeping with heaters and dehumidifiers. To compensate for the drying effect, this is the time to apply moisturiser. Look for products with hyualronic acid, which pulls moisture towards itself. Take this a bit further and make sure to apply lip balm at night and moisture to your feet as well.

Powerful anti-ageing molecules, such as Vitamin A (Retinol) and Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) are inactivated by exposure to sunlight. Hence it is best to apply these products at night. Furthermore at night, your skin doesn't have to combat UV rays and other environmental pollutants, you don't apply any SPF and have washed off your make up. All of these factors mean that skin care applied at night has less to compete with, so is most effective.

There you have it: sleep is a powerful weapon in the fight against premature aging. However, we need to be aware of the ways in which we could be sabotaging our beauty sleep. If you are interested in night skin care, feel free to contact us or check out our page on Arbonne Skincare.

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