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The search for the ‘fountain of youth’ has brought forth beauty creams, wonder bras, and a million other ‘perfect solutions’, but we all know that real beauty comes from within. I suggest we stop the search and just go to bed. A good night’s sleep is a great prescription for weight loss, glowing skin, and a lovely demeanor.
Let’s take a closer look at this common phrase: ‘good night’s sleep’.
Sleep means you must be asleep, not just lying in bed.
Night means exactly that. The body is attuned to nature’s light-dark cycle and many crucial functions occur only while we sleep during the hours of darkness (which puts many daytime sleepers behind the eight-ball).
Good means that the sleep experience satisfies the body’s functional requirements. This includes all of the above plus a sleep period of eight hours with the right balance of deep-sleep (NREM) & dream-sleep (REM).
With daily activity, body tissues experience a lot of wear & tear. Movement damages muscles and stresses bones, skin damage occurs with UV light exposure and chemical contact, lung cells are damaged by air-borne pollutants, and so on. Each night, during sleep, the body does repair and rebuilding work, like strengthening muscles and replenishing skin with collagen to keep it looking beautiful, smooth and firm.
When we don’t meet the body’s sleep needs, the natural cycle of tissue factors and hormones (like cortisol & melatonin) become disturbed in their rhythms. These substances have positive effects when produced at the right time of day, and in the right amounts. However, if they’re still at work when they should have gone home, or don’t show up for work when they’re supposed to, things begin to go awry.
Increased cortisol, from deficient sleep, inhibits night-time collagen-production and skin repair. This leads to saggy, wrinkled, pallid skin, more blemishes, slow-healing sores, and red puffy eyes with dark circles and no ‘sparkle’. In one telling experiment, researchers photographed volunteers after eight hours sleep, and again after missing just one night’s sleep, and had people rate the images according to health & attractiveness. Overall, the sleep-deprived images were rated as unhealthy and least attractive.
Various long-term studies into the sleep habits and weight of adults & children all show strong correlations between obesity and short sleep length (less than 8 hrs in adults and less than 10 hrs in young kids). During waking hours, carbs are our main energy source, while fats are stored away. When we regularly have a ‘good night’s sleep’ our body naturally switches to night-time fat-burning for energy (overnight weight loss), and releases growth hormones to encourage muscle building. A natural sleep cycle encourages healthy weight and a strong, muscular body. Not getting enough beauty sleep, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. Disturbed hormone rhythms inhibit muscle-building process and fat-breakdown, instead encouraging the breakdown of existing muscle and further fat storage (overnight weight-gain). What this means, when you look in the mirror, is that gaunt hollows or multiple chins replace a well-structured face, your upper arms have chicken wings instead of pop-eye pumps, and any sign of a potential six-pack disappears in favour of a muffin-top. While a healthy diet is always a better choice, even that won’t be enough to save you if you force your body out of its natural rhythm!
But wait! I forgot to mention that missing out on beauty sleep also makes it harder for you to stick to a healthy diet, even when you are trying to do the right thing. Researchers found that sleep disruption messes with the cycle of hormones which signal hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin), causing increased appetite and food cravings, especially for high-calorie junk foods like cake & biscuits.
So, do your body a favour. If it’s after 11pm, right now, stop reading this and go straight to bed!
If you’re not too concerned about having a muffin top or blotchy skin, then maybe the desire to be a kind, tolerant, friendly person, with sunshine in your eyes, will be enough to get you off to bed.
Many studies into mood disorders consistently show that sleep-cycle disruption leads to mood swings, confusion, anxiety and depression. These issues may not prevent someone from being a nice person, but they will reduce their ability to see the beauty in life. Other research has shown that a lack of sleep reduces willpower, self-control and self-discipline, which may well lead to being a not-so-lovely person. These wonderful qualities give people the ability to consciously choose behaviour and manage animal-impulses. They enable people to consider the wider consequences of a choice and take the best action for all concerned.
This mental processing requires a good supply of energy resources in the frontal brain, which become reduced with sleep loss. In addition, dream-sleep processes the day’s experiences and ‘detoxes’ neural pathways. When this vital function is cut short, the ‘thinking’ brain remains cloudy and confused, leading to poor decision-making, while unprocessed emotions increase emotional sensitivity.
What this means, ‘in real life’, is reduced tolerance to small upsets and irritations, and a greater tendency to act on an immediate impulse, rather than thinking it through. A normally considerate person may lash out, verbally or physically; engage in harmful gossip; try to burst another’s ‘happy bubble’; or simply be unsupportive or unavailable to a friend (or stranger) in need.
Research in this area found that loss of sleep caused ethics to fall by the wayside, as sleep-deprived students were more likely to cheat on tests, and sleep-deprived employees were more likely to deliberately work slowly, surf the web on work-time, and reveal confidential information.
Without beauty sleep, it is so much harder to be someone we admire, and too easy to be someone we don’t.
Here’s a little process to help you connect with your most beautiful self. As you lie down to sleep tonight (early enough to give you eight good hours!), think of several occasions where the ‘you’ in that memory is someone you admire and respect. Perhaps you made a friend laugh, or shared some healing wisdom, or co-operated well in a team project, or simply managed to relax enough to stay under the speed limit while driving home. The action is irrelevant. Just think of the person you were in that moment and how, if it that was another person, you would admire them and desire to be like them. These moments are glimpses of who you truly are, and who you can be every day.
In these memories, think about the admirable qualities revealed within you. Were you compassionate, generous, confident, motivated, clear-headed, optimistic, courageous? Did you act with integrity, or listen well, or speak your truth? Whatever they may be, acknowledge each admirable quality, one at a time, with the statement: “I know that I am … “. When you’ve acknowledged them all, say: “I know that I am all these things and more. In my golden core are all the qualities I admire in others.” If you like, you can also write these acknowledgments of your beautiful qualities on paper, so you can read them to yourself on sleep-deprived mornings, to remind yourself of who you really are before you step out into the world!
Next, invite this most admirable and divine inner-core you, who is all that you’d like to be in life, to enter your dreams tonight. Ask it to reveal more of who you are, and teach you how to think, behave and live in your ideal way, every day. With this conscious intention, your brain will begin laying down maps during its dream-time organizing, which can help you strengthen these undeveloped qualities. Do this process as often as you like. You’ll find that you remember more ‘amazing-but- true’ facts about how beautiful you really are, each time you do it!
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