'Beauty sleep' is definitely no fairy tale!
The time you spend between the sheets is vital to looking and feeling your best. Sleeping well comes with a wide range of benefits for mind and body (on top of making it easier to resist hitting 'snooze' in the morning). If you're looking for a way to fight the signs of aging, support your body's healing process and reduce your risk of heart disease, then getting enough sleep might be the key to boosting your physical and mental wellbeing. Clear skin? Check. Healthy nails? Check. It all starts with a good night's rest.
Sleep is the body's chance to repair the stress and damage suffered during the day, including the visible effects of aging we spend so much time trying to prevent. With enough chance to rest and restore, the natural healing abilities of our cells and tissues are supported, meaning healthier skin with fewer lines and wrinkles, a brighter complexion and preventing dark circles around the eyes. Maximizing the body's ability to restore and rejuvenate also means scars and stretch marks heal faster, and your skin is more resistant to sun damage, dark spots and the effects of pollutants in the environment.
It isn't all about the number of hours you're spending in bed, though - what's much more important is the time you spend in different stages of sleep, as each one plays a key role in giving your body the R&R it needs. Early in the night, you're likely to be getting longer periods of deep sleep, where your body rests and recuperates for the day ahead. If you wake up with lots of energy, it's likely that you clocked up plenty of deep sleep overnight! Sleeping deeply gives the immune system a helping hand, strengthening your ability to fight off illness and infection and reducing levels of inflammation.
REM sleep is the peak time for dreaming, when the brain processes everything it's learned during the day, so this stage of sleep is crucial for memory and focus. Time spent sleeping also boosts creativity, reduces stress and increases emotional resilience, meaning well-rested people are happier as well as healthier! Sleep and metabolism are closely linked in the brain, so people who sleep well are more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan and resist cravings, helping to kickstart or maintain weight loss. Plus, every hour you're asleep gives the body a chance to repair muscles and joints, which is crucial to increasing physical strength and stamina. The foundation for any workout starts well before you lace up your sneakers and hit the gym, and giving your body the chance to restore itself during the night helps to repair and build muscle.
The bad news is that there's just no substitute for a good night's sleep - tea or coffee can make you feel less tired, but your body still misses out on those vital hours of healing and restoration. Without enough time to cycle through deep sleep and REM, taking a nap doesn't make up for lost sleep during the night either. To unlock the benefits of sleep and support your natural healing and restoring ability, aim for seven to eight hours of restful sleep a night, and try to stick to a regular schedule to keep your body's rhythms synchronised. Waking up refreshed and revitalised is well worth the investment!