Dr Nilu's 10 tips on how to improve your sleep quality and why it is essential for your skin health

If you've had a bad night's sleep it's obvious, so obvious it's probably the first thing that your family and colleagues when they first meet you.Your general health,well-being and especially the health of your skin depends heavily upon you getting a good night's sleep. Without it your body will produce the stress hormone cortisol. As a result your body is subjected to increased stress and inflammation , which in turn damages and can prematurely age your skin.
 
The problem with us Streatham residents is that our busy urban lifestyles are not necessary conducive to a good night's sleep. Noise pollution, light pollution, excessive exposure to computer and TV screens, as well as  poor diet and modern central heating systems can all contribute to reducing your sleep quality. But you don't need to lose any sleep over this (excuse the pun), there are a number of easy thing you can do to help improve this essential nightly natural healing process. Let's first consider how a poor night's sleep reduces your skin’s health.
 
The first thing sleep deprivations does is Increase inflammation and raises you cortisol levels. This can lead to increased acne breakouts and aggravate common chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. This Low-grade inflammation is also responsible for the deterioration of collagen and hyaluronic acid in your skin. Both of which are essential for maintaining your skin’s youthful glow. Good quality sleep also boosts your immune system and helps rebalance your body's hydration. This allows your body to process excess water ready for excretion and your skin to recover moisture. If your body doesn't perform this function properly it will lead to wrinkles becoming more visible, your skin becoming dry, and the appearance of puffy bags and the dark circles under your eyes associated with being tired.
 
Improving your sleep quality you will not only make you look less tired it will actually diminish the signs of aging. This is a direct result of the growth hormones your body produces during sleep. These hormones actually repair damaged cells and without regular quality deep sleep, cellular damage accumulates and can lead to poor health and accelerated aging,
 
If those weren't enough reasons to improve your sleep, here's another. It's also been shown that improving your sleep also improves weight loss. Not only are you more physically active and less lethargic when you're less tired you're also less hungry too. So there are plenty of dermatological and health reasons why you should try to get the best night's sleep you can, but there is also one other very important other reason you should work on your sleep quality: You'll feel better! And when you feel better the world will be a better place. You'll be more productive and happier and your friends, family and colleagues will be so much easier to get along with. So how is a good night's sleep achieved when we’re exposed to this modern urban lifestyle of ours?
 
If you measure your sleep quality you can start to manage it so the first thing to do is start measuring. There are a number of phone aps now that provide this function and although there has been some recent press about phones under pillows bursting into flames, the latest sleep aps no longer need to be left under your pillow.  if you don't want to use your phone you can alternatively use one of the fitness trackers like a fitbit. If you do use your phone it's important you switch it into airplane mode. Once you've got a few night's measure's and you know your typical current sleep quality you can start to try my following top ten tips:
 
1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time - Your Circadian rhythm the is the biological clock that regulates many of your body’s biological processes including your sleep cycle. To ensure this rhythm doesn't become confused it is important that it maintains a regular rhythm. Doing this ensure your metabolism and energy levels are kept in balance.

2. Keep your bedroom is dark and quiet - Light is one of the most important cues your body uses to regulate your circadian rhythm. Ensuring your sleep isn’t disturbed by any noise and blacking out your room are really simple and effective ways to improve the quality of your sleep. Also dimming the lights around your house a couple of hours before bedtime is a good idea.

3. Exposure yourself to the early morning light for 15 minutes every day - Idealy this should be done within 2 hours of dawn and it has to be direct light. Not through windows. Important light frequencies are contained in the early morning light that glass filters out. As well as darkness your eyes need exposure to these early morning light frequencies to best stimulate your circadian rhythm.

4. Avoid screen exposure during the evening - This includes your mobile phone, Compute or TV. There is mounting evidence that these devices disrupt your sleep cycle. This is why many mobile phone manufacturers now incorporate nighttime displays that block out the green and blue lights that are thought to disrupt your sleep. If you do want to watch your TV or have to use your computer in the evening it’s worth investing in good quality blue light blocking glasses. There are loads of stlyes you can choose from and the orange tint actually looks pretty cool too. And talking of cool…

5. Ensure your bedroom is comfortably cool - Your body naturally expects the ambient temperature to cool at nighttime. Keeping your bedroom too warm will disrupt your sleep as you'll have noticed when it becomes hot during some summer nights.

6. Take a cold shower before bed - This is an strangely effective way to help induce deep restorative sleep.  It can take a little getting use to at first but eventually you’ll look forward to the lovely woozy effect this technique gives you are you get into bed.You can truncate the process of cooling your body down with the help of contrast showers. Contrast Showers help reduce the amount of time you need to spend under the cold water. They work by intermittently exposing your body to both the hot and cold water. Your skin's blood vessels are opened up with the hot water and this allows the cold water to come into greater contact with your blood flow, consequently increasing the potency of the cold water. Typically 5 to 6 cycle of 10-seconds hot water and 20-seconds cold are enough to do it, but you must always end on 20-seconds of cold water. 

7. Avoid alcohol - People often think that alcohol helps you sleep. While it is true that alcohol will initially help induce sleep it's not a good quality sleep that is induced. The deep REM restorative sleep your body needs is severely disrupted when you drink alcohol and is so best avoided as much as possible.

8. Exercise daily - Unlike alcohol, exercise will induce good quality sleep. If you do decide to get some exposure to the early morning light you can use this as a good opportunity to do a little exercise. Exercising in the evening can actually disrupt your sleep and is best avoided

9. Day time sun exposure - It's a good idea to get some daily sun exposure during the summer months to maintain your vitamin D levels, but it's also important that you try to obtain some daily natural sunlight during the middle of the day to help maintain your Circadian rhythm  too. Even just half an hour a day during your lunch break can be helpful. 

10. Lower your Stress levels - This is where mediation and making sure you wind down at the end of the day are really important. Make sure you do not do anything that's going to over stimulating your brain at least 2 hour before bedtime. Definitely do not check those emails before you go to bed. They can wait until the morning when you'll be better rested and able to deal with them.

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