To say we are living in strange, stressful times just barely touches on how most of us are feeling. There are so many components to this inexplicably huge change to our lives—the threat of serious illness, the toll on our financial health, isolation, the constant buzz of bad news. If you’re not feeling some degree of anxiety or fear, consider yourself a unicorn. One of the most fundamental ways that these stressors are affecting us: getting a good night’s sleep. Read on to discover why sleep is so important to reduce stress (and how a new nighttime routine can help).
Why sleep is important for your health
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems or make existing problems worse. That likely comes as a surprise to no one. But they also say that sleep deprivation can cause an anxiety disorder. The result can be an endless cycle. Here, five reasons why sleep is imperative to good health – and, how a lack of it can seriously impact your well-being.
1. Mood regulations
Most of us have experienced first-hand what it feels like to get through the day after pulling an all-nighter: cranky, perhaps overly-emotional, a shorter fuse than usual. Studies show that it’s precisely the lack of sleep that causes the inability to control our emotions. A 2015 study found that sleep deprivation wipes away our ability to be neutral, so everything sparks a heightened emotional response. Another study from Duke University found that women in particular demonstrated higher psychological distress, anger, and hostility when they suffered from insomnia.
2. Your immune system
A 2012 study found that our bodies’ reaction to sleep deprivation mirrors the effects of extreme fight-or-flight stress. White blood cell count goes up, and the immune system's ability to protect you plummets.
Similarly, University of Chicago research shows that antibodies in sleep-deprived people who'd received a vaccine were approximately 50 percent weaker than their well-rested counterparts.
So it stands to reason that getting a healthy amount of sleep reduces the feelings of stress, and keeps your immune system strong.
3. Your cardiovascular system
Harvard University research shows that blood levels are a critical marker for cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, stroke & heart disease. Those levels rise when nightly sleep drops below 5 hours.
4. Your cancer-fighting mechanisms
While you’re snoozing, your body is busy producing melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle. Less sleep means less melatonin production, which can spike your risk for developing cancer. According to a University of Texas study, melatonin’s superpowers are two-fold: it’s essential to detoxifying harmful free radicals, and actually creates cancer-fighting antioxidants as well.
A 2010 study found that among 1,240 people screened for colorectal cancer, the 338 who were diagnosed were more likely to average fewer than six hours of sleep a night.
5. Your skin
When researchers at Cleveland’s University Hospitals Case Medical Center studied the skin of women who slept more than seven hours a night for at least a month, versus those who slept fewer than five, they found that the sleep-deprived group had more uneven pigmentation, fine lines, and saggy skin. Their skin recovered more slowly from sunburns and had impaired skin barrier function (so their skin lost moisture more easily). All in all, they were perceived to look 4 years older than their real age by professional dermatologists. On the other end of the spectrum, the good sleepers looked 8 years younger.
Get Your Zzzz’s
So, how can we fall asleep (and stay asleep) in the midst of a crisis? Answer: Make changes to your daytime routine so your nighttime goes smoothly. Here’s how.
Swap coffee for green tea
Caffeine in and of itself isn’t bad (as long as you don’t consume it too close to bedtime). But it’s the form it takes. Perricone M.D. has long been a proponent of nixing our lattes and pouring an antioxidant-rich green tea since it’s loaded with health benefits.
Coffee can cause inflammation and boost insulin, so much so that you can lose 10 pounds in six weeks just by quitting coffee and drinking green tea instead. A 2017 study found that volunteers experienced a reduction in stress after consuming green tea. This may be because it’s a source of the amino acid L-theanine, which is thought to reduce muscle tension and blood pressure.
Start mindful meditation
Stopping, breathing, listening, taking your brain out of autopilot mode—that’s what mindful meditation is all about.
You can start with as little as ten minutes a day – it will help to put out the fires erupting in your mind right now. Doing so at any point of the day will help you at night. In one study, researchers divided volunteers who struggled with sleep into two groups. One group participated in a mindfulness awareness program that taught meditation and techniques designed to help them focus on “moment-by-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions.” The second group attended a sleep education class instead. This included techniques to improve their sleep habits. Both groups met six times, once a week for two hours. By the end of the experiment, those in the mindfulness group reported less insomnia and depression more so than the group in the sleep education class.
Introduce a new nighttime skincare routine
A face mask is more than a face mask, a cream much more than an anti-aging solution, when you turn it into a ritual that signals your body that it’s time to unwind and prepare for sleep. Spending time that you may not have had before (when you may have been busy running with the rest of the world) on yourself in this deliberate way can have many soothing, stress-fighting benefits. For one, it can serve as your own type of meditation—time to quiet everything in and around you. Second, the act of touching your skin and massaging it can release tension. It’s the ideal time to focus on your breathing and let go of the thoughts and concerns that have built up over the day.
- Start by gently washing away dirt and impurities with Vitamin C Ester Citrus Brightening Cleanser. The formula in this cleanser is gentle enough to keep healthy oils and moisture intact, while helping to exfoliate for a more radiant complexion.
- Next, apply High Potency Growth Factor Firming & Lifting Serum. The encapsulated retinol works overtime to improve skin’s moisture, making it plumper, more youthful, and more resilient.
- Finish by massaging on Essential Fx Acyl Glutathione Intensive Overnight Moisturizer, our richest formula. The time-released ingredients improve the feel of skin elasticity and address the look of saggy skin. Or try Vitamin C Ester Overnight Brightening Treatment. The ultra-restorative formula is ideal for fading skin discoloration, exfoliating, and hydrating.
- Twice a week, smooth on Multi-Action Overnight Intensive Firming Mask. Loaded with coconut oil, DMAE, and alpha lipoic acid, it feels velvety and luxurious. Designed to deliver the deepest moisture to tired end-of-day skin, it soothes and revitalizes (and may very well have the same effect on you).
Ready to start your new nighttime pampering regimen? Let us know your favorite get-ready-for-bed routine or sleep tips in the comments below.