Is Your Insomnia Causing You to Age?
Getting your “Beauty Sleep” is not just a cliché, but is truly important in preventing the aging process!
By Dr. Sunanda Chugh, Aesthetics and Wellness Expert, Medical Director, Anand Medical Spa
After consulting with many women who come to me for a variety of reasons, I came to the realization that although most were looking to improve their appearance via cosmetic procedures, what they were really seeking was to feel better about themselves. Now, surely having less wrinkles and a youthful appearance may help one feel better and more confident; but I realized it was equally important to address other underlying issues as well. For example, if someone is sleep deprived, stressed out, or anxious/depressed, not only will these things affect her overall health, but they will play a major role in accelerating the aging process. This philosophy is now the basis of my private practice and my desire to help women create a blissful, confident, beautiful you from the inside and out!
How Does Sleep Affect the Aging Process?
I can’t say I was ever a “good” sleeper. I was always envious of people like my mother who fell fast asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow…it seemed so unfair! I, on the other hand, would require not only ear plugs to make sure there was absolutely no noise to disturb me, but would often toss and turn for half an hour before falling asleep. As I got into my 30’s, I started noticing how my insomnia was taking a toll on my aging in terms of increasingly dark circles and hollowness under my eyes. I started looking for anything to help me sleep better so I could prevent my insomnia from taking a toll on my appearance.
Our normal sleep cycle involves the release of certain hormones, including cortisol and growth hormone, which help regulate a variety of functions in our bodies including the aging process.
Cortisol is produced excessively by our bodies when we are sleep deprived. Elevated levels of cortisol lead to increased inflammation in our bodies. Increased inflammatory cells in the body lead to an increase in the breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, the molecules that give our skin its youthful glow and bounce. The increased inflammatory response due to elevated cortisol also shows up as under-eye puffiness, acne breakouts, increased skin sensitivity, increased allergic contact dermatitis reactions, and conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
In addition, lack of sleep decreases the amount of growth hormone which is vital to maintain the integrity of the skin by stimulating collagen production and aiding in the cell repair process.
A recent clinical trial published in Science Daily in July 2013, commissioned by Estée Lauder and conducted by physician-scientists at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center, found that poor sleepers demonstrated increased signs of skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced skin elasticity. The researchers also demonstrated that those who were sleep deprived had slower recovery from stressors to the skin such as sun and environmental toxins.
How to Improve Sleep
The ingredients for good sleep include the following:
- A dark, quiet, and cool room
- Waking up the same time every day (Yes, even on the weekends.)
- Avoiding any caffeinated beverages after 4 pm
- Avoiding drinking water too close to bedtime
- Keeping electronics out of the bedroom
- Not doing anything in your bed other than sleep and sex
- I also advise my patients that if they are having trouble sleeping, get out of bed, go to another room and do something that is NOT stimulating (like read a boring book or newspaper). Once you start to feel sleepy, then go back to bed.
- Write down anything that is bothering you or is on your mind and unless it is urgent, put it away to address tomorrow.
- Lastly, what I have found most beneficial for me is doing 5-10 minutes of meditation and slow, deep breathing before going to bed.
Food and Sleep
Lastly, just in case you love to snack, here are a list of healthy evening snacks that may also aid in sleep:
- Handful of walnuts or almonds
- Banana with almond or peanut butter
- Bowl of cereal with milk
- Bowl of cherries
- Crackers with some cheddar cheese or hummus
Dr. Sunanda Chugh is Founder and Medical Director of Anand Medical Spa specializing in non-invasive cosmetic procedures. In practice in New York City since 2004, Dr. Chugh is a Cornell University graduate. She completed her training at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital/Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. Contact Info: 212-653-0366 firstname.lastname@example.org.