By: Barbara Tunick
TUCK YOUR SKIN IN AT NIGHT
“Sleep gives your skin the chance to repair and rejuvenate itself. It’s much-needed R&R for your skin,” says Wendy Roberts, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and a dermatologist in private practice in Rancho Mirage, CA.
But when you don’t get enough sleep, it shows all over your face. Your cells need about 8–10 hours of rest to replenish themselves. Lack of sleep also impedes lymphatic activity, which is critical to the body’s ability to drain off toxins and maintain a healthy immune system, says dermatologist Min-Wei Christine Lee, MD, a clinical instructor at the University of California, San Francisco. Lymphatic drainage reduces swelling too. Without enough sleep—and hence good drainage—you’ll wake up puffy and sallow with dark circles under your eyes.
FIGHT GRAVITY WHILE YOU SLEEP
It’s also not only how much you sleep but the position you sleep in that matters. The goal is to reverse at night what gravity does during the day. When you’re awake and erect, gravity steadily pulls down on your skin, which is why your face starts to look tired and saggy at night.
“Believe it or not, the best way to beat the gravitational pull is to sleep on your back,” Lee says.
Roberts concurs. “Gravity affects how old you look. When you sleep on your back, you actually diminish its effect on your face,” she says.
On the other hand, if you’re in the habit of sleeping face down, try to
break it. Otherwise, you’re likely to have more puffiness in the morning because fluid can pool in your face.
LET YOUR FACE “BREATHE”
In terms of your skin’s health, one of the worst things you can do is fall asleep with your makeup on. The accumulation of dirt, skin oils and makeup that builds up every day by bedtime clogs pores, which can lead to acne.
So give your face a thorough cleansing before bed, and give your hair a good brushing to remove leftover gel, spray or mousse. Otherwise, all those products will rub off on your pillowcase and end up on your face, inviting breakouts.
Extra protection for the acne-prone: Cover your pillow at night with a white, 100 percent cotton towel, suggests Lee. The towel absorbs skin oils, any bits of missed makeup and hair-treatment residues, wicking them all away from your skin. After a couple of days, you’ll be startled by how much gunk the towel has soaked up (expect to wash it frequently!).
DON’T LET YOUR SPOUSE RUIN YOUR SLEEP
But what if you do all these good things—snuggle under the covers—and then can’t fall asleep? About 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia. What’s more, nearly one in four people say their partners’ sleep problems keep them awake, too, according to a recent Harris Interactive survey.
The biggest bed-partner problems:
Snoring, no surprise – 34%
Tossing and turning – 15%
Hogging the bed or blankets – 14%
Insomnia – 14%
Although women are twice as likely as men to suffer from insomnia, you have to wonder if part of the problem is inconsiderate bedmates. The Harris survey found that 29 percent of women—versus 17 percent of men—say their sleep is disrupted because their partners stay
up late watching TV, using a computer or reading.
But if insomnia really is the problem, it’s often treatable and may take only a little change of routine by you and/or your bedmate.
Good habits to get into:
Limit the bedroom to sleeping and sex—no balancing the checkbook or using the laptop in bed.
Become sleep-etiquette savvy. A spouse who gets up several times a night should sleep closer to the door. If one partner is a tosser-and-turner, consider getting a larger bed, separate blankets
or even separate beds.
Control the room temperature. Being too warm or too cold can interfere
with your sleep.
At dinner, avoid spicy foods—they can cause nighttime indigestion.
Skip afternoon naps and evening caffeine.
Don’t overdo alcohol—it can make you drowsy too early and then wake you up in the wee hours.
Exercise during the day—it helps you sleep at night. Just be sure you work out several hours before bedtime; any closer and exercise can rev you up when you’re trying to wind down.
Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, including weekends,
to establish a healthy sleeping pattern.
Stifle snoring. For relatively low-volume snorers, try one of the herbal antisnore formulas, which can be remarkably effective. Use wedge pillows to keep snorers sleeping on their sides, not their backs. But when bedmates rival a freight train, medical help is in order—not least because the problem may be sleep apnea, a potentially serious breathing disorder.
GIVE YOU SKIN, AND YOURSELF, A TOTAL REST
But if what you need is some real rest—a week or two of downtime, not just an extra hour of sleep here and there—prep your skin for the weather transition, whether you’re off to the sun-drenched tropics or a ski trip out West.
“A lot of people hit the tanning salon on the theory that if they build up a tan, they won’t get burned,” says Lee. But salon tanning can be just as dangerous to your skin as a sunburn. The big doses of ultra-violet (UV) rays you get in a salon may be more concentrated than those on a beach, where the rays are more scattered, there may be some umbrella shade and you’re not 100 percent exposed. A better way to ease your skin into strong sun is to start your vacation using a high SPF (30 or more) to prevent any burning. If you can’t resist getting a little tan—even though you know how much it accelerates aging—then gradually cut down to lower SPFs. Goal
No. 1 is not to burn, because bad sunburns are a major cause of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. If you forego sun and sand for a ski holiday, you need to ease in your skin a bit differently. High altitudes are dehydrating, says Lee. To keep skin moisturized and healthy, start drinking extra water from the time you board the airplane. And don’t forget the sunscreen: The sun is stronger at higher altitudes, not to mention the double dose of harmful UV rays being
reflected off the snow.
By the time you get back, your skin will look as rested and refreshed as you feel. Now try to make both last!