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‘Five a Day’ Focus: Sleep & Stress

A couple of weeks ago I touched on the amazing processes our skin goes through as we sleep – processes so amazing, that sleep and managing stress have made it into my Age Confidence Five A Day.

A lack of sleep and high stress levels really take their toll on the body and prevent it from performing its essential functions. By suppressing the immune system, they also have a major effect on the skin – and can often cause inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis to flare up.

Sleep is absolutely essential for keeping our bodies in balance and maintaining energy levels. Without it, our stress levels rocket and our biological processes slow down, causing us to feel sluggish and bloated.

Sleep is particularly important for skin health – as the skin cells’ repair and regeneration rate almost doubles at night.

How to improve your quality and quantity of sleep

Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, leaving you more alert and excitable. Avoid tea, coffee and fizzy drinks during the 4-6 hours leading up to bedtime.

Keep cool

The optimum temperature for sleep is 16-18°C, so avoid over-heating your bedroom and sleep with your window slightly ajar.

Exercise

Regular exercise releases endorphins that combat stress. An activity which combines exercise with relaxing meditation, like yoga, is ideal for aiding sleep.

Embrace aromatherapy

Scents are proven to affect the state of the body and mind. Try dabbing a couple of drops of lavender, chamomile, jasmine or bergamot on your pillow before bed to soothe the senses and prepare you for rest.

Stress

Many skin sensitivities flare in tandem with heightened emotion, and it’s not uncommon for conditions to develop for the first time after periods of trauma or grief.

This is due to the stress hormone cortisol – which suppresses the immune system in order to redirect energy to the muscle and mental functions.

The longer we’re stressed, the longer the immune system is down for and the more susceptible the skin becomes to reactions. 

How to combat stress and keep calm

Sleep

Sleep and stress go hand in hand. Tiredness and a lack of energy are major contributors to stress levels, so follow the tips on the above to guarantee a good night’s rest. 

Take a break!

Dedicating all your time to work or stressful situations overburdens the mind. Regular breaks during the day and holidays during the year help restore clarity.

Meditation

Meditation comes in many forms, and can be as simple as lying on your back and focusing solely on your breathing for ten minutes at the end of the day. Emptying the mind releases stress, and will also help you sleep.

Exercise

Exercise releases mood-lifting endorphins that lift the mood and help you focus, and also reduces the release of chemicals that cause stress. Try and fit 30 minutes of physical activity into your day, five times a week.

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