Thursday, August 13, 2020

Skin care and sleep loss: “I need help!”

What can I do to help my skin when I’m suffering from a lack sleep on a chronic basis? And please don’t say “get more sleep.” That just isn’t possible right now in my household due to family illnesses.    

I love this question. My guess is that some of this client’s well-meaning friends have been telling her the obvious but unhelpful suggestion of “just get more sleep.” Although the obvious solution, I’m pretty sure anyone who isn’t getting enough sleep is well-aware that sleeping would be the first line of defense without hearing it from an outside source.

In this situation, I believe the help she’s looking for isn’t just a matter of what she uses on her skin, and many times under stress the skin care routine flies out the window anyway, what’s even more important is what she’s putting in her body in terms of liquids and solids. Nutrition when under duress is going to be the key to better health, inside and out. 
Think about what you get from a good night’s sleep: regeneration, detoxification, and your organs get a rest too. So if possible, if you can eat simply, meaning don’t overeat and try to eat foods that are easy to digest vs. a big fat juicy hamburger with French fries. Usually when stressed out overeating or eating easy to acquire foods like fast foods are the norm. So if you want to do right by your body when you’re not able to get good rest each night, eat easy to digest, simple foods as well as making sure to drink more water.

On the skin care front, my recommendations are just about the same as they would be for anyone with problem skin: Be sure you are doing The Basics daily (cleansing, toning, and moisturizing), and if you do The Extras (exfoliating and using a clay mask) once to three times each week, that would be a good choice for more rested-looking skin. In the end there is no amount of skin care that will erase the ravages of not-enough sleep, but through a commitment to proper skin care, you can face the world with healthy skin, even if you are exhausted. Maybe if you can’t sleep, get up and gommage or do a mask while you read a book or write in your journal.

If possible, and I’m writing this during the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic, so perhaps I should say when possible, get a facial and/or a massage. In fact setting up regular appointments to help ease the stress of sleepless nights can go a long way to help you look and feel better. Sometimes just knowing you will be in the hands of a capable practitioner—even if it won’t be until next week or longer—can really take some of the stress you’re carrying off your back. At the same time, I realize these professional treatments are usually pricy, so doing an at-home facial or just putting your feet in a tub of hot sudsy water can give you the temporary relief you’re looking for.

Perhaps the following has the same impact as saying “get more sleep” but if possible don’t stress out about not getting sleep. Usually in life things have a cycle and perhaps your sleeplessness is just a cycle that you will get out of hopefully sooner than later. Regardless, stressing out about not sleeping certainly won’t help you to sleep—especially if you stress about it while in bed.

When I was in my mid-30s, my sweet mom found out she had stage-3 colon cancer. A devastating blow to all of us to say the least. Up to that point I never really had any trouble sleeping, but that all changed during my mom’s illness, and I developed insomnia. It is something I don’t recommend—it is a debilitating “disorder” and not an easy thing to get on top of. Eventually it did “cycle out” of my life, but while I was living through it, it truly made a bad situation worse.

I remember each night as I was getting ready for bed (and each of those nights I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before), I could feel myself starting to tense up at the thought of not being able to fall asleep that night. I kept telling myself to calm down, breathe, and hope for the best but try as I might, that night and for weeks and weeks and months of nights I did not sleep. I took to giving into it and just started watching TV or reading books during the wee hours. It was better than tossing and turning and agonizing over not being able to get some shuteye. In a word: it was horrible!

To my point about cycles and how they come and go, the insomnia I was experiencing eventually did go away. I don’t remember exactly how or when it did leave my life, but now over 20 years later I have thankfully never had long-term insomnia again. I went through that cycle and eventually, although it couldn’t have ended soon enough, it did go away and I went back to a more normal sleeping pattern. And I’m extremely lucky to say that my mom survived and is now 88 years old and thriving. An unexpected but welcomed blessing.

So to those of you who aren’t getting good sleep, I completely understand. The things in your life that may be keeping you up at night will usually somehow eventually fade and you can resume a more peaceful sleeping life at night. It may be that your children grow up or a relationship that is turbulent mellows, or perhaps, if you’re mourning the loss of a loved one, you come to a place of peace about it. Maybe good sleep will not be yours today, and perhaps not tomorrow, but at some point your body will readjust and you will get sleep, glorious, restful, deep and peaceful sleep.

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