5 Ways to Increase One Hormone for Better Sleep and Healthier Skin
A camera-shy poltergeist hijacked my sleep last night.
I was enveloped in the new car smell of the jeep I was sitting in, parked inside a garage as black as this poltergeist’s soul. (I knew it was a jeep I was sitting in, because, as well as a safari in Botswana, I’ve been daydreaming about buying one for the past month).
The poltergeist was banging around, crashing into boxes and screeching up against windows like a wild dog gone rabid. I’d turned the ignition and thrown the vehicle into first before I noticed the camera lying on the dashboard. In that dream-like way, I was no longer inside my jeep; I was floating through the air trying to take photos of this racketing creature.
Every picture I took illuminated her black, hollow, distorted face on the screen of the camera. I screamed so loud at her glowing appearance, I woke myself up.
She haunted me in the mirror the next morning. Dark circles, puffy eyes, sallow skin. Her hair was different though. I blinked. So did she. Yikes. I looked scarier than my own subconscious conjuring.
It’s hard to hide a lousy night’s sleep because the body prioritises wound healing and skin cell renewal at night. It also uses sleep to produce optimal amounts of melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain. Day time production of melatonin is minimal; sharp increases occur while we sleep.
Melatonin helps the body set a circadian rhythm, which lets your body know when to fall asleep, and when to wake up. Melatonin also helps preserve a youthful look (one of the reasons kids act ghoulish after a shocking night’s sleep but never look it).
As you age, the body’s production of melatonin decreases. This contributes to increased wrinkles, finding it hard to fall asleep at night and waking up in the morning feeling drowsy.
The Healthy Skin Diet, Karen Fischer, BHSc, Dip. Nut. is one of my favourite resources for healthy skin. If you’re having trouble sleeping read the five tips adapted from this book, below.
Pick one that seems achievable.
Do it for one week.
If it has a positive effect, keep going, then add in another tip.
If it doesn’t help, it may be that you’ve picked a tip that doesn’t relate to your particular sleep difficulty.
Try another suggestion.
If you try 3 or 4 tips and still aren’t sleeping, book a naturopathic consultation for further help.
Your improved sleep will trigger an increase in melatonin production which will, in turn, encourage better sleep, helping to create a certain circadian rhythm that refreshes your skin while you rest.
1. Control your stress. Worry, anxiety, and stress trigger the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes an increase in sleep preventing hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Turn an activity that lets you unwind into your own personal bedtime routine. Unroll your yoga mat, meditate, slip into a relaxing bath, sip a cup of chamomile tea, delve into a good book, unburden yourself on the page, or talk to the dog. Pick one…
2. …and do it out of bed. Keep time under the covers for sleep and sex. Why? Because your body is smart. Scrolling social media propped up on pillows trains your body to associate bedtime with phone time. Even if you find photos of Manny the Frenchie stress relieving.
3. Mind your food and drink intake. Cut coffee and green tea after 3pm. Don’t dine after nine. Avoid spicy foods at dinner. Curtail acid-forming foods such as alcohol, fruit juice, soft drinks, chocolate, pork, and vinegar. Control your consumption of sugar during the day and watch out for desserts. Sugar causes blood sugar levels to rise and fall rapidly. This makes it easy to fall asleep but causes waking during the night and difficulty getting back to sleep.
4. If you wake up during the night, don’t lie in bed googling ‘how to beat insomnia.’ Get out of bed and meditate in the dark. Melatonin production increases in the dark, which will help to make you sleepy. Plus, just the thought of sitting in the dark focusing on my breath makes me want to get back under the covers. That’s good training. Remember, the body is smart. If it equates waking up during the night with the pain of moving into a cold room to sit up straight and concentrate, it will seek to avoid it.
5. Exercise during the day. Be productive. An active day makes it easier to fall asleep because the body will crave rest to restore the balance.