While You Were Sleeping

The irony of the time that I write this is not lost on me. I am the walking embodiment of do as I say on this topic, not do as I do!

See, I’m a night owl, always have been. I find the quiet of the night inspiring creatively and without the day-to-day pressures, it can be super productive.

But, getting a decent block of quality sleep each night is essential to maintain a good, healthy balance in mind, body and skin.

The recommendation is around 5-8 hours a night, some genetic predisposition will come into play with this, but that is the guideline amount of rest in order to fall in line with the circadian rhythm.

The Circadian Rhythm

Taken from two latin words; Circa (round) and Diam (day), the circadian rhythm is like the conductor of our biological orchestra, the master switch that is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus in the brain. This central control influences each of the cellular biological circadian rhythms throughout the body.

Sleeping female in duvet via Unsplash

This 24-hour body clock controls the optimal efficiency of our biological functions from temperature, to hormone regulation, metabolism, sleep and brain function. Our cells adapt and react to environmental cues; light source for example can throw our systems off balance within a remarkably short space of time.

So what happens to skin in 24 hours?

During the day activity is all about defence; protecting from the onslaught of lifestyle, environment and the free radical damage that can ensue. The skin produces extra sebum, thickening the barrier function. From around midday to 3pm this production of sebum peaks, which accounts for why our complexions may feel oiler after lunch.

As evening approaches, our skin becomes more permeable. This not only means that high functioning, potent serums are often best used in the evening before sleeping due to increased absorbency, but also that our skin is susceptible to greater influx of toxins built throughout the day and trans-epidermal water loss. Further underlining the necessity for thorough cleansing in the evening.

At night, our body enters repair mode. It is a time of rejuvenation from damage caused during the day.

A huge impact on our skin health is from the impact of stress, driven by lifestyle and environment. Cortisol is a hormone that the body releases in response to stress, connected to our fight or flight response. At night, cortisol release is minimal which enables repair to be optimised as it is less impaired by inflammatory responses.

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The White Company PJ set - available in-store

Blue light is an area of increasing interest in the world of beauty and wellbeing as it has a direct impact on the release of Melatonin, the hormone the helps support the sleep cycle, provide antioxidant protection and boosts repair. Melatonin is released by the pineal gland at the base of the skull and is triggered by light change, it is most prevalent between 12-3am, so light intrusion from devices when our bodies are entering their repair mode, can dramatically impact the efficacy of this repair.

Beauty Sleep

Sheridan bed linen

Without good sleep we will see the effects very quickly.

    1. Dehydration – this can occur swiftly, think about how our skin feels after burning the candle at both ends around Christmas where we would ‘normally’ be partying and working without sufficient recovery time. Skin become rougher in texture, uneven and parched feeling.
    2. Visible lines -loss of hydration and impaired barrier function will make fine lines almost instantly more pronounced.
    3. Skin irritability – sensitivity, flare ups, redness can all be connected back to poor barrier function, loss of hydration and this all relates back to skin that has been unable to repair optimally.
    4. Dark circles – while some pigmentation around the eyes is within our DNA and cannot be reversed, only corrected or counteracted, it will be exacerbated by built up toxins caused by poor drainage and chronic fatigue.


Molton Brown Eye Mask

I feel a bit hypocritical in giving advice here, as I am not great at getting sufficient sleep. But, I do know what I should do. So, I am treating this as a love letter to myself in creating new positive patterns. After all, those beloved phones of ours need plugging in overnight to recharge, so our internal systems need the same nightly routine.

If you can remove the day from your face with a solid double cleanse and apply your most active skincare during the evening as you potter around, as opposed to just moments before you fall into bed, then they will have more time to work while your skin is optimised to absorb active ingredients.

Use a mask 1-2 times a week to purify and reset skin to support it in the recovery process and optimise hydration maintenance. Aside from this, it is a ritualistic treatment, setting aside time and allowing that self-care, guilt free.

Phones off at least 30 minutes before lights out. Easy to say, but we must all really try.

Last but not least - I think I’m personally going to invest in an eye mask. The eyes are where light enters and plays tricks on our central system, so perhaps a rather fabulous eye mask will help complete the ritual of switching off, to restart.

Sweet dreams!

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