The Power of Rest

Why sleep alone is not enough–and how to reset your body

Sleep and Beauty

Is sleep a secret to looking good?

                 Sleeping Beauty

Why sleep? people ask me. I give them a welter of reasons starting with avoidance of death. Sleep deprive any animal and it dies–rather quickly.

Yet fear of death does not seem to motivate people to take more time for rest, or to even pay attention to its advantages for personal regeneration. So next I turn to standard medical issues - active rest helps prevent heart disease and stroke; prevents depression; increases stamina and immunological resilience.

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Interest rises, but only if you look hard or you're in older age groups.

Next I explain how sleep is necessary to weight control - when people sleep less than six hours a night, they gain weight. It's a major reason why adolescents are getting so heavy, and why our health care system, stuffed with an overweight, diabetic population - will bankrupt itself.

A few nods of acknowledgement. Two thirds of adults are overweight, and many of them don't feel very good about it.

So I give them another reason to sleep effectively - they'll look better.

That gets more attention.

Beauty and Her Sleep 

We have it from no less a source than Gwyneth Paltrow, the talented, beautiful actress who also makes a sizable account each year as model and pitchperson for beauty products. She told one radio interviewer that she "looks like a train wreck" with even one night of inadequate sleep.

Yes, sleep helps you look good. Here are some reasons why:

1. You grow a lot of skin in sleep. Some studies argue perhaps the skin spurt in sleep in 30 times what it is during some parts of the day. Lots of new, healthy skin appears while you slumber.

2. Growth hormone literally reshapes much of our continuously regrowing bodies. Growth hormone receives its greatest production during slow wave sleep. Though slow wave sleep decreases with age, it can increase with properly timed physical activity and hot baths right before you sleep.

3. Better learning - for all the many parts of your body. A great deal of learning is unconscious - by muscle, ligament, sinew, as well as brain cells - and occurs during sleep. Cut out the process and you simply don't learn properly - whether it's learning dance steps, remaking your ankles, or remembering and using mathematical formulas. Proper sleep makes you more balanced, more fit, more coordinated. It's not surprising professional sports teams are adding sleep docs to their rosters in order to improve athletic performance. The rest of us will just regenerate better with adequate rest.

4. You'll look a lot less tired. One German study which looked at sleepless versus non-sleepy people revealed faces became far less attractive following a night without shut-eye. And the photographs were made during daylight hours they would otherwise look good - not the pale faces of waking mornings.

Even the normal, standard partial sleep deprivation of everyday American life does nothing for our appearance - or our waistline. By shucking sleep to work, tend children, play games and text during the night, we end up looking more tired, more exhausted -  more unattractive.

Bottom Line

There are many ways to look good. People appear better when they're better rested, but they also feel better. It all comes from allowing your tissues to regrow and remake themselves so your body can actively "rest" and regenerate itself.

And looking healthier is attractive in itself. What better way to improve health and appearance than by following simple rules to properly regenerate your body.

Much of your heart is new in three days, and most of the rest of your body is remade in four weeks. That gives you plenty of opportunity to make yourself feel healthier, look healthier, and become healthier.

And look younger, too.

 

Matthew Edlund, M.D. researches rest, sleep, performance, and public health; he is the author of Healthy Without Health Insurance and The Power of Rest.

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