“You look tired, honey,” Bob sleepily remarked to Karen, with genuine (if not very animated) compassion.
He was munching a greasy slice of pepperoni pizza and gulping some Bud Light® while watching golf on TV. Her puffy, sallow face and purple circles around her eyes were a dead giveaway that she was truly exhausted.
She had had a rough week working her 8-6 as an accountant, taking whiny Jamie to soccer practice, cooking, cleaning, and being elected as HOA president (an achievement which she took some degree of pride in).
On top of all that, the economy had just hit rock-bottom recession levels, Bob had been laid-off, and their insurance had just skyrocketed because Dylan crashed the car on his 16th birthday. She also suffered from insomnia and only slept 5 hours a night.
Karen glared at Bob and did not appreciate his remark about her appearance. They are now happily divorced. Such is the fate of those who do not sleep enough.
Beauty benefits of sleep
It’s well known that sleep is good for the appearance, especially for your face. “Getting ones beauty sleep” is a popular saying that reveals common wisdom about sleep: If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t look good. Conversely, if you sleep enough, you’ll feel a lot better AND look great. And you won’t have to go through a divorce.
But why is this the case? This article won’t be an exhaustive treatise on the science of sleep. There are plenty of good articles on the subject. I’d suggest you start with this website. It has everything you’ll need to know.
In this article I’m going to offer some insight based on my own experience getting myself on a good sleep routine. It’s an ongoing struggle in this modern age of distractions and busyness.
First comes survival, then comes beauty
From a common sense perspective, how does sleep affect your appearance? Think about it. Your body heals itself during sleep. It recharges your energy. My personal hypothesis is that your body needs to prioritize survival. That means your body will prioritize essential tasks like repairing cells in your vital organs and making neural connections in your brain, rather than improving the external appearance and structure of your face and hair. While great hair and skin are nice, I don’t think it would be worth it to have a confused brain and a malfunctioning kidney as a trade.
The bottom line: if you sleep enough, your body can fulfill its basic functions and then put energy into improving your hair and skin. But are people sleeping enough to get its benefits?
“SHOCKING REVELATION! AMERICANS DON’T SLEEP ENOUGH!” – No news headline ever
According to the great “sleep guru,” Dr. James Maas (aka old white guy who looks like your 70-year-old white-sneaker wearing uncle) 70% of adults get a bad night of sleep 2-3 nights a week. Is this statistic useful to you? Not really, because you (and I would venture most people in the US) know that we Americans often don’t sleep well. It’s even considered a virtue if you work so hard you don’t sleep enough. This was the unfortunate opinion of Karen the Accountant from our story.
So how much sleep do you need?
A lot of ink has been spilled on the topic of how much sleep people need. Most people agree it’s usually between 8 and 9.5 hours, with young people needing more sleep.
So, aim for about 8 or more hours of sleep. I would also venture to say that quality of sleep is just as important as quantity. I have a few recommendations based on what I’ve found works great for me, but of course it goes without saying that you should modify these suggestions based on your own personal preferences.
Some suggestions for a good night sleep
- Here’s the biggest one: make sure you actually SCHEDULE wind down time as part of going to bed. I’ve found that it takes at least an hour to wind down from work and stimulants like electronics before going to bed.
- Do something calming before bed like praying and reading a good book.
- Don’t use electronic devices before bed.
- Make sure to exercise regularly.
- Go to bed reasonably early so you have a head start to the day and aren’t stressed getting up. Another good rule is go to bed a little earlier than you think you should, to account for falling asleep, getting up at night, etc.
- Don’t drink too much.
- Don’t vary your bedtime too much (still working on this one).
Any thoughts? Leave a comment below! And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog for more reflections as well as more science-related articles.