Why We Sleep
I'm reading Professor's Matthew Walker's bestselling Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams - and honestly, it's far and away the best yet on the subject (trust me on this as I have read others for my ongoing research!). In essence, Walker says that it you’re regularly clocking in at under seven hours a night, you’re doing yourself a disservice as grave as that of regularly smoking or drinking to excess. A sobering thought:
'That low level exhaustion becomes their accepted norm, or baseline. Individuals fail to recognise how their perennial state of sleep deficiency has come to compromise their mental aptitude and physical vitality, including the slow accumulation of ill health.'
Walker, the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, says that not getting the recommended 8-hours of shuteye a night has been linked to everything from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer to profound negative impacts on mental health and basically that 'no aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation and yet no one is doing anything about it.' Apparently, we humans are the only species that deliberately deprive ourselves of sleep for no apparent reason and this fascinating insight into just how the body (think brain!) works through the precious hours of sleep clarifies why experts now rate adequate sleep as the number 1 route to a happier, healthier mind and body.
Walker presents sleep as a panacea for a bewildering array of conditions and in one spirited passage, he describes it as though he were marketing a new pharmaceutical: 'Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory, makes you more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?' Yes please......
Sleep & Youth
Not getting enough good sleep also impacts our mental and emotional health, as well as our daily life as functioning day to day is much easier after a good night’s sleep, largely because our brain forms new pathways while we sleep to aid learning and memory. He cites his concerns for our young minds in particular with pointed messages to our education system, as early school starting times – particularly in the US, where almost half of public high schools start before 7.20am – is disastrous for the mental health of teenagers. So much that evidence now equates lack of sleep as a factor in the onset of depression and schizophrenia.
Sleep & Skin
Beauty experts consistently rate sleep amongst their top essentials because, when sufficient and deep, a good night’s sleep can transform our appearance. So much so that my forthcoming book GLOW (out on March 8th - more to come) dedicates a chapter to the subject and it really is the perfect accompaniment to Why We Sleep as it puts Walker's theories into practice with a complete 4-week plan to brighter, more radiant skin.
Science shows that during the precious hours of sleep, our body’s innate healing capacity kicks into full gear, as toxic build-up from our unrelenting environment is cleared, growth hormone is produced, our immune systems are revitalised, breathing and heart rate slow, cells are repaired and our systems are rebalanced. If skin doesn’t have enough time to do this, not only can you can wake up with skin that’s looks lacklustre, under-eye bags, breakouts, dullness and accelerated ageing signs can all start to appear - I'm sure this sounds familiar? And remember the earlier in the evening the skin is cleansed and prepared for the night - the more effective skin repair will be.
For the sake of research (and more importantly for myself!) I have been putting Walker's principles and my own GLOW research into practice over the winter months and yes, yes, yes - please can I have some more? I used ESPA's Sleep Collection range (soothing bath and body oils, a serum and night overnight cream) to maximise my skin's repair capacity and loved them all, most especially the Tri-Active Advanced Night Booster.
This active plant cell complex felt like a serum and oil in one (thanks to the soothing combination of Canola Oil and Winged Kelp extract of Bidens Pilosa, a source of Bio-Retinol) on my skin and felt like it was digging deep to nourish and hydrate my dull winter skin. Although just 20ml it lasted for over 2 months and my skin says 'Thank You.'