How did you sleep last night? If the answer is ‘badly’, you’re not alone.
According to research from The Sleep Council, 74% of people in Britain sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night, while 30% sleep badly most nights. And at times like this, these figures are likely to be much higher.
The same study found that the lifestyle aspects most affected by a lack of slumber were energy levels, mood and health, but sometimes the evidence is staring us straight in the face, after a night spent tossing and turning.
People often say they look terrible when peering bleary-eyed in the mirror at a sleep-deprived face first thing in the morning.
So why does our skin show the telltale signs of a less than restful night?
“Not only do our bodies recharge, our skin does as well,” says clinical facialist Kate Kerr, founder of Kate Kerr London.
“During sleep, we heal, restore and eliminate toxins from the skin.
“If sleep is compromised, so is the body’s ability to carry out these essential skin functions.”
“The quality and length of sleep you experience every night can have a profound impact on your skin’s overall health.”
Different repair processes happen throughout an eight-hour period, which is why we need a full night’s kip.
“During the first three hours of sleep, your body will start producing the human growth hormone from the pituitary gland,” Kerr continues.
“As we age, this hormone is necessary for the maintenance of youthful and radiant skin.
“Without this hormone release, skin is not repaired from daily damage and thus induces the ageing process.”
Next, in the middle two hours of sleep, the production of melatonin is increased.
“Melatonin is a hormone that is responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm, but also acts as an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from damaging free radicals,” Kerr says.
In the final three hours, called the active REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage, levels of stress hormone cortisol decrease.
“The skin’s temperature also drops to its lowest point, allowing muscles to relax and become immobile, giving skin its deepest recovery of the night,” Kerr says.
So, that’s why poor sleep makes us look terrible, but what can we do to counteract these effects?
First of all, the obvious answer is to get more sleep. That may not always be easy, but even if you can’t eliminate certain factors, there are other ways to improve your ‘sleep hygiene’.
Experts recommend making sure your bedroom is completely dark (or use an eye mask), kept at a cool temperate of 16 to 18 degrees, and free from noise, technology and clutter.
As for lifestyle factors, you should avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol before bed and maintain a regular bedtime.
In terms of skincare, Kerr suggests three steps to maximise your chances of waking up looking refreshed.
“Cleansing your skin before bed is a vital step to remove every last bit of make-up, but also the spoils of the day, such as pollution and natural oils that build up and oxidise on the skin’s surface,” she says.
“Always double cleanse, starting with a gel-based cleanser for oily/normal skin, or a moisturising gentle cleanser for drier skin, then follow with an acid-based cleanser, which helps to increase the rate at which the cells turn over.”
She also recommends anti-ageing hero ingredient retinol.
“Retinol helps to stimulate a large percentage of the different cells within the skin to behave as fresher, healthier and younger versions of themselves.
“This not only improves collagen and hyaluronic acid production, but also speeds up cell turnover to improve skin function, hydration, and to smooth and brighten.”
Finally, give yourself a mini massage with a serum or facial oil to prevent puffiness.
“This helps to stimulate circulation, which increases oxygen and nutrients, and also encourages the skin to detox by activating lymph drainage.”
An even better approach? Combine slumber and skincare to boost your beauty sleep.
PICTURE: Getty Images/iStockphoto