I ON BEAUTY Chapter 26: Sleep Like a Baby for Better Skin

04/26/2017 09:00 am ET | Updated May 10, 2017
Photo by Darcy McGrath
Your skin repairs and rebuilds itself during sleep.

Insufficient sleep doesn’t just leave your mind foggy, it wreaks havoc on your skin. Why? During sleep your body undergoes the majority of its restorative functions. Collagen production is greatest while you sleep and is essential for maintaining firm, elastic skin. The release of somatotropin (aka human growth hormone, or HGH) also peaks during sleep, aiding in repair from external damage such as sun radiation, pollution, scrapes and bruising. Blood flow also increases, allowing more oxygen into cells and transporting more waste from them. Without these processes skin is left dull and vulnerable.

Despite the amazing advances in dermatological and cosmetic science, there is no cream or serum that rivals the rejuvenating powers of good night’s rest. So how do you make sure you’re catching your recommended number of ZZZs? A combination of common sense habits and mindful practice are key.

Four steps to better beauty sleep

1) Be realistic about what you can accomplish each day. If you frequently lie awake at night thinking of how you should have squeezed more hours out of the day or worrying about what tomorrow will bring, you may need to reevaluate your expectations of a reasonable workload. Consider delegating responsibilities at home or in the office. Invest in time-saving tech, such as a Roomba. Skip the drive to the bank by paying bills online. Order household staples from Jet.com or set up auto-delivery with Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program.

2) Avoid caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, heavy foods, and too many liquids before bed. Save caffeine for the morning only, and combat a mid-afternoon slump with a brisk walk instead. While tobacco and alcohol are never great for skin, they’re particularly bad for sleep. Even as a glass of wine may seem relaxing, it can diminish the quality of your sleep later. And there’s nothing worse than falling into a blissful slumber only to be awoken by the call of nature. Limiting food and beverages of any kind before bed will lessen the chance of a 2:00 AM bathroom run.

3) Establish a bedtime routine. About an hour before you intend to fall asleep, follow your nighttime skin care regimen, brush your teeth, and slip into comfy pajamas. Leave your devices in another room, and turn your alarm clock away from you so that you can’t look at it. In time your body will recognize these activities as a signal that it’s time to turn in.

4) Record yourself. Have you ever been told that you toss and turn through the night or make odd noises? Consider setting up a video camera for a night or two. As many as twenty-two million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and the vast majority are undiagnosed. As this is a condition that requires medical intervention, awareness of your sleep quality is key.

Improving your sleep habits will not only give your skin its best chance at a youthful appearance, it also helps to regulate appetite and mood, improve memory and cognitive function, and enhance willpower—all of which help us make healthier decisions for our appearance and lifestyle. Of course, even when we try our best to do what’s best for our bodies, life can still occasionally get in the way. Next week, check back for tips on how to look refreshed even after an all-nighter.

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