I’ve been telling my patients for years: a great sleep routine is the ultimate cosmetic medicine.
Why? When you maintain a consistent routine of plentiful, high-quality sleep, you allow your body to unleash its own natural, internal anti-aging powers.
While we sleep—and particularly when we enter deep, slow-wave sleep—our bodies go to work to repair and restore cells and tissues, supported by an upsurge of hormones that support cellular health and directly contribute to a more youthful appearance.
On the other hand, when we don’t get enough high-quality sleep, our biological aging process accelerates. Cells, tissues, and organs get less of the restorative repair that sleep provides, and we see more of the visible signs of aging, including wrinkles, dull skin, puffy, tired eyes, and limp, listless hair.
Sleep isn’t the only factor that affects aging, of course. Our biological age, and how young we look and feel is the result of a number of interrelated factors, including:
But sleep is a major contributor to the pace of biological aging—and sleep has a dramatic impact on visible signs of aging.
“Beauty sleep” is not just the stuff of fairy tales. It’s a real and powerful force in slowing aging. A regular routine of high-quality, plentiful sleep will make you look younger, fresher, and more vibrant. Here’s how.
Sleep directly contributes to a more youthful, healthful appearance through several biological processes.
Cell growth and repair. If you think of your body as a high-powered precision vehicle, then getting a great night of sleep is like checking yourself into to the very best, most highly skilled body and repair shop.
During sleep, the body fixes damaged cells and launches the growth of new cells. As we sleep, our immune system strengthens and becomes more active to fight back against toxins and damage—from environmental sources such as UV rays, and from free radical cells, which contribute to aging and to disease.
During sleep, the body increases production of proteins that fuel cell growth and repair—including collagen, the most plentiful protein in the human body. We all know that collagen is essential to healthy, youthful-looking skin. A great deal of this cellular repair work and collagen production takes place during deep, slow-wave sleep.
Release of human growth hormone. HGH, or human growth hormone, is nothing less than nature’s Botox. HGH repairs and rejuvenates cells, tissues, and organ function throughout the body. Most of the body’s HGH production takes place during sleep, in particular during slow-wave sleep. (See what I mean about the importance of deep sleep for beauty sleep?)
The body’s nightly release of HGH contributes directly to a more youthful appearance of hair, skin and nails. And HGH is an essential component of collagen production.
To maximize your time in slow-wave sleep and achieve true beauty sleep, you need to do two things:
If you’re sleeping restlessly and waking throughout the night, or if you’re not getting enough sleep don’t get enough sleep to move through a full night’s worth of sleep cycles (typically 4-5, each containing some deep sleep) your body misses out on the HGH production and cellular repair that help keep you looking and feeling younger.
These are two of the major benefits of sleep for anti-aging—but there’s more. Sleep also promotes:
Hydration, and the healthy distribution of fluid. Sleep helps keep the body hydrated, and helps avoid excess fluid retention. Dehydration and fluid retention are significant contributors to the visible signs of aging.
Healthy circulation, and slower arterial aging. Sleep helps protect against age-related damage to the body’s heart and blood vessels. Sleeping well can lower blood pressure, relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, bringing nutrients—and a healthy color—to the skin. Sleep also slows the aging of the heart and blood vessels. Poor circulation and arterial aging are major contributors to the appearance of aging on the skin and hair.
Less stress. Stress increases the production of cortisol, contributes to the proliferation of free radical cells in the body, and weakens the body’s ability to repair itself. All of these factors contribute to visible aging. Sleep also helps to limit inflammation and offers protection against the stress-related, age-accelerating cellular damage to the skin and throughout the body.
A lot of my patients ask about natural supplements to promote collagen production, to stimulate anti-aging hormones, and to help with stress. Glycine is a sleep-promoting supplement that also aids in the production of collagen. And GABA is a sleep-supporting supplement that also promotes the body’s natural HGH production. And there are a range of sleep-enhancing supplements, including magnesium, L-theanine, and CBD, which help promote relaxation and lower stress and anxiety. It’s important to always consult your physician before adding any supplement to your routine.
Sleep disorders, including insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea, become more common as we age—and often go undiagnosed, raising risks for health problems and contributing to accelerated biological aging. If you’re experiencing trouble with your sleep, including difficulty falling asleep, waking often during the night, waking feeling tired, daytime fatigue and signs of sleep-disordered breathing, such as snoring—or if something just feels off about your nightly rest—talk with your doctor.