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Sleep

Posted on: 22nd April 2020

Recent research has shown that a lot of people are not sleeping due to uncertain times that we are living in which are not only unprecedented but also unusual living in a democratic society.

Anxieties related to loss of control and uncertainty are understandable  during this pandemic.While a natural fear response is par for the course, too much anxiety can be problematic. Instead of spending time and energy worrying, why not channel that energy into what you can control — self-care. Focusing on sleep is a natural fit for working on self-care, as getting enough sleep can benefit your immune system which at this time is more important than ever.

Why is it so important to get sufficient sleep during this time?

Ample sleep supports the immune system, which reduces the risk of infection and can improve outcomes for people fighting a virus. On the other hand, sleep deprivation weakens the body’s defense system and makes people more vulnerable to contracting a virus.

Therefore, a good night’s sleep puts us in the best position to protect from and fight off viruses. Also, it is not easy to function at our best given our social distancing restrictions. Adequate sleep can maximize your potential for having better days under these circumstances. Optimal sleep helps regulate mood, improve brain function and increase energy and overall productivity during the day.

Are we more vulnerable to insomnia during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Yes, for several reasons:

  • People are spending every waking moment getting one last look at their screens (news updates, COVID-19 education, social connections). The blue light from these screens tells the brain to stop producing melatonin (our sleep hormone), which can lead to trouble falling asleep.
  • Elevated stress and an overload of information can keep the mind racing and elevate the body’s arousal system response, triggering insomnia.
  • Loss of daytime structure can upset nighttime sleep schedules. Inconsistent bedtimes and wake times can shift the pressure — or urge — to sleep, making ability to fall asleep less predictable.
  • Depressed mood, more downtime and low energy can increase long napping, making it harder to fall asleep at night.

What can help us sleep better?

Sleep is crucial at this time. Changing sleep habits can help improve sleep:

  • Figure out your sleep need (experiment with different amounts), then prioritize that amount of sleep each night. The sleep range for adults is six to nine hours, but most need seven to eight hours. We are not obliged to late night social activities, so getting to bed “on time” is more realistic right now — take advantage of that.
  • Set boundaries on electronics usage. Turn off your devices one hour before bedtime. Leave your cell phone charging in the kitchen so you are not tempted to look at COVID-19 updates during the night.
  • Take the hour before bedtime as “me time” with no electronic engagement. Minimize conversations and calls during that hour. That’s not easy, especially if you have young children at home, but it’s important. We all need at least one hour alone per day. Take a hot bath/shower, play soothing music, try a meditation app and read a book or magazine.
  • Minimize naps that are longer than 30 minutes and after 2 p.m. If you have any trouble falling asleep, avoid napping.
  • If you have learned deep breathing exercises (from yoga classes or meditation apps), try using them to fall asleep and return to sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom environment is conducive to sleep. Keep the room temperature cool, try an eye mask or blackout shades, and use a white noise machine to block extraneous noise from the street or the hallway.
  • Make sure you are using coping strategies to gain control over elevated stress. Many folks have less access to the usual coping strategies (e.g., time with friends, going to the gym etc.). Try new activities and hobbies that can help you gain control over stress (e.g., painting, writing, photography, indoor exercise videos, etc.).
  • Try to structure your daytime schedule; it will support a regular bedtime and wake time. Set cell phone reminders to anchor your schedule, and as a reminder to turn off screens an hour before bedtime.

Any other advice for optimizing sleep?

While sleep is important, try not to fret about it! Worrying about sleep just turns into more stress. Instead just do your best to get to bed on time and follow these tips if there are problems. Remember to always come back to “controlling the controllables.” You can’t control the outcome of your efforts, only the efforts themselves.

So How does sleep influence your skin?

A good night’s sleep can mean good skin health because when you’re sleep-deprived, your body makes more of the stress hormone cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to increased stress and inflammation in the body, hurting your skin’s quality and can lead to more systemic diseases.

But the relationship between skin health and lack of quality sleep can be a vicious cycle, especially with conditions like eczema, which can lead to scratching even through the night, recent research published in the journal Clinics in Dermatology showed.

“Poor sleep can lead to increased stress hormones such as cortisol which in  the body can increase the severity of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis. This can result in increased itching, which can disrupt sleep. As the vicious cycle continues, skin conditions and sleep quality can increasingly worsen together. In contrast, skin conditions and sleep quality can also improve together. Getting a good night’s sleep will help to clear up skin, which allows sleep to improve and, in turn, will improve skin health.

Need more convincing? Here are six reasons why not getting enough sleep detracts from skin health and your health in general:

  1. Not enough sleep worsens existing skin conditions. Increased inflammatory response shows up as increased acne breakouts, increased skin sensitivity, increased  contact dermatitis reactions, and increased irritant dermatitis — and more severe conditions mean more treatment and skin care.
  2. Not enough sleep detracts from your skin’s natural beauty. Increased inflammatory cells in the body lead to an increase in the breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, the molecules that give the skin its glow, bounce, and translucency.
  3. Not enough sleep makes immune-related skin problems worse. Increased inflammation in the body throws off the body’s ability to regulate the immune system, which leads not only to getting sick more often, but also to flares of immune-related skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. Psoriasis is not just a skin disease; it’s also an indicator of body inflammation.
  4. Not enough sleep results in less beauty. While you’re sleeping, the body’s hydration rebalances. Skin is able to recover moisture, while excess water in general in the body is processed for removal. Not getting enough sleep results in poor water balance, leading to puffy bags under your eyes and under-eye circles, as well as dryness and more visible wrinkles. It is important at this time to use good cosmeceutical skincare products so they can be optimized to help repair the skin whilst you sleep.
  5. Not enough sleep accelerates the aging process. During deep sleep, the rise in growth hormones allows damaged cells to become repaired. Without the deeper phases of sleep, this won’t occur, allowing daily small breakdowns to accumulate instead of being reversed overnight. This results in more noticeable signs of ageing. Ageing is basically an inflammatory disease so more sleep equals less ageing.
  6. Not enough sleep contributes to weight gain. Did you know that sleep helps with your weight control? Sleeping well means you feel less hungry as lack of sleep can mean increases in midnight snacking which contributes to weight gain.

 

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