How to sleep yourself young (and healthy!)

We all know the power of a good night’s sleep to put a spring in our step, but how does getting enough shut-eye keep us young? And how can we sleep better?

Ask anyone how they’re doing these days and their answer will almost certainly include something about how busy and tired they are. As the number of things we need to tick off our to-do lists during waking hours grows, the less we prioritise sleep – at the expense of our physical and mental well-being.

Youth Day this month has us thinking about ways to stay young – and it’s no surprise that getting quality sleep is top of the list. Here are a few reasons why.

Why you should care about the quality of your sleep

Sleep makes us look younger

It’s called beauty sleep for a reason – a few reasons, in fact:

  • While we’re sleeping, our skin produces new collagen as part of its repair process. More collagen equals fewer lines and wrinkles, and all-round younger-looking skin. According to experts, getting only five hours’ sleep a night, rather than seven or more, can result in having twice as many fine lines.
  • Our body boosts blood supply to the skin while we sleep, which gives us a glowing, more youthful complexion. All those expensive products in your skincare regimen? They work better when you’re sleeping thanks to increased blood flow to the skin.
  • Getting enough sleep reduces the puffiness and dark circles under your eyes that cane make us look older.

Sleep helps with weight control

Maintaining a healthy weight can keep us young – in fact, researchers believe obesity should be considered to be premature ageing. This is because it increases our risk of developing conditions normally seen in older people that affect quality of life or life span. These include weakened immune systems and decreased brain function, and increased chances of developing Type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other illnesses.

How does sleep fit in? Scientists have linked lack of sleep with obesity and weight gain. Not sleeping enough appears to affect the levels of our appetite hormones, which may cause us to eat more. (Not to mention that we’re less likely to exercise when we’re tired).

Sleep beats mental fatigue and boosts mood

Feeling constantly overwhelmed and drained may be a sign of mental fatigue, which can be caused by prolonged cognitive activity – basically, the brain working too hard for too long. The result is exhaustion, stress about not being able to function properly and possibly anxiety and burnout, all of which makes us feel the opposite of young and energised.

Getting enough sleep allows the brain to rest and rejuvenate, which is essential for avoiding mental fatigue and improving mood, focus, alertness and productivity.

Getting a good night’s sleep

Experts agree that healthy adults need seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep a night (sounds heavenly, right?). If you’re not getting that, try these tips:

  • Make sleep a priority. This may mean trading in social time or work hours in order to get enough sleep (instead of the other way around).
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time very day, including weekends.
  • Disconnect from devices. Turn off your phone, laptop, TV and tablet at least 30 minutes before lights out.
  • Avoid exercise, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom cool. Doctors suggest that a temperature between 15.6ºC and 19.4ºC is the ideal room temperature for comfortable sleep.
  • Try relaxation techniques like meditation, mindful breathing or visualisation exercises before bed to help you fall asleep.
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