Sleep is one of nature’s most effective beauty treatments, so get your full eight hours
Jennifer Lopez claims it’s her secret weapon to looking good (apparently, only eight hours will do); actress Diane Kruger says it’s her number-one beauty secret; and as for Mariah Carey, a full 15-hours of shut-eye is needed to look and feel on true diva form. You only have to look in the mirror or try to do a full day’s work after a sleepless night to know they’re right; burning the candle at both ends goes hand-in-hand with grouchiness, dark circles and dull skin. To look our best we need to get our beauty sleep.
‘Lack of sleep creates a chain reaction,’ says dermatologist Leslie Baumann MD, Director of the Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute at the University of Miami. ‘Not only does it impair brain function – making us more irritable, less able to concentrate and prone to forgetfulness – it also causes an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn releases more sugar into the bloodstream. This leads to skin ageing through a process called glycation, which is when a sugar binds to a protein, making that protein stiff. In short, not getting enough sleep – like smoking or sun damage – will make you look older, faster.’ Studies have shown that cell division increases while we snooze, repairing damage done during the day, which means conditions like acne and eczema are much improved by getting a good night’s rest.
The first step to sound slumber is a seriously comfortable bed, like those in Mandarin Oriental hotels – each decked out with 450-thread count, 100 per cent Egyptian cotton sheets, and white goose-down duvets. But before you tuck yourself up for the night take note of the following tips:
Get a sleep gadget
Originally developed to help stressed office workers powernap during the day, the Pzizz machine – which looks a little like a MiniDisc player – uses neuro-linguistic programming, along with binaural beats and music, to lull you into a state of relaxation and help you sleep more soundly. You can download a 15-minute taster from its website www.pzizz.com.
‘If I’m having trouble sleeping, I have a fail-safe yoga pose that really helps,’ says yoga guru Claire Missingham. ‘Janu sirsasana, also known as the head-to-knee pose, stretches your spine, shoulders and hamstrings and helps your body de-stress and prepare for a peaceful night’s sleep.’ Simply sit with one leg outstretched and the other bent inwards, with the sole of your foot facing upwards in line with your chin. Then gently bend over your outstretched leg in line with your spine and hold for up to three minutes on each side.
Watch what you eat
Eating the wrong foods late in the evening is a sure-fire way to a poor night’s sleep, according to the experts in digestion: the doctors at Austrian health spa the Mayr. ‘Your digestive system naturally wants to rest after about 7pm, so eating heavy meals like meat and beans or raw foods like salad and fruit after this time causes your body’s digestive system to rev-up again and work late into the night digesting your food,’ says the Medical Director, Dr Wachernig. ‘Try to eat dinner early, and have easy-to-digest foods such as soup, and steamed fish. Even better, try to do a “tea fast” once a week and just have a cup of herbal tea for dinner. You’ll notice how much better you look and feel the next morning.’
Give yourself a massage
It can be tempting to just slather on the most expensive anti-ageing cream you can lay your hands on and hope for the best, but you could be missing a trick, according to facialist Anastasia Achilleos, who looks after celebrities like Kate Moss. ‘Whatever products you use before bedtime, the single most important thing you can do is to incorporate some massage into your skincare routine. It’s a zero-cost way to boost circulation, relax tense muscles and detox the lymphatic system. Treat the process like a ritual: gently press and massage every product into your skin with the pads of your fingers for a minute or two, whether it’s your eye cream, your moisturiser or your cleanser.’
Find your sleep routine
‘As we grow older our sleep becomes shorter, lighter and more fragmented,’ says insomnia expert Professor Kevin Morgan from the Sleep Research Centre. But a proper routine, sleeping and waking at the same time each day, is the guardian of good sleep. It also helps to have a regular wind-down ritual such as reading, taking a bath or listening to music before bed.’ And if you still find yourself tossing and turning, don’t just lie there in the dark getting more and more frustrated and anxious, says Morgan. ‘Get out of bed after 15 minutes and do something restful elsewhere until you feel sleepy again.’
Beat the heat
A simple thermometer is one of the best ways to ensure sound slumber, according to Chris Idzikowski from the Edinburgh Sleep Clinic. The ideal temperature for a good night’s sleep is 18˚C, which will ensure your body’s core temperature drops enough to encourage sleep. If the room is too warm (above 24˚C) your brain won’t send the correct triggers for sleep. If the room is too cold (below 12˚C), the body will struggle to maintain temperature and disturb sleep.’