A lot of my female clients ask me which foods are good for healthy looking or “glowing” skin. Although certain nutrients like essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins C, A and E, zinc are associated with healthy skin and overall good health, most of the time women are neglecting one very important factor: SLEEP.
Of course there are also other factors besides not getting enough sleep or nutrients that reduce the quality of your skin, such as;
• Not drinking enough water. You should be drinking at least 1.5 – 2 litres a day
• Not wearing sunscreen; even if you live in a cloudy country like England and think there’s no point of wearing sunscreen during winter, the damaging UV rays are still there. Sunbathing is a sure way to age and damage your skin and as we all know is directly linked with skin cancer
• Drinking excessive alcohol
• A diet high in sugar
But why is sleep so important for healthy looking skin? From experience we are all familiar with not getting enough sleep and dealing with the consequences – from eye bags to dark circles, puffiness to a sallow complexion. But not getting enough sleep can damage your skin in the long run too. Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine showed a correlation between inadequate rest and accelerated skin ageing. Science has proven that poor sleepers exhibit increased signs of skin ageing when compared to good quality sleepers – it all comes down to the weakening of our skin’s ability to repair itself at night.
Unfortunately, this especially applies to us women. Researchers from Duke University have discovered that, compared to men, women experience far more mental and physical consequences from inadequate rest. Ageing skin isn’t the only price our skin is paying for this lack of sleep either.
A lack of sleep has been proven to influence women to make poor food choices. One recent study showed that following 2 nights of sleep restriction, subjects had an 18% drop in leptin– a satisfactory hormone that controls our appetite. So it makes sense that you are more likely to crave food high in fat and sugar with these low levels of leptin.
There are a multitude of factors contributing to our ability to fall asleep, such as personal life demands and stress levels. However, "lucky" for us, a woman’s sleep is also affected by her hormone levels. Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle, pre-menopause, pregnancy and after having a baby, all affect your sleeping pattern and not in the good way.
There is plenty of information out there when it comes to having a good night’s sleep, from sticking to a routine mediating and keeping your bedroom temperature below 20 degrees. However, when it comes to helping you sleep better through your diet here are a few things you could try:
Have more protein for your breakfast and lunch and complex carbohydrates and vegetables for dinner. It takes over 3 hours to break down and assimilate proteins.
Avoid spicy food late in the evening; it increases your metabolism and makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
Alcohol is known to disturb sleep for a lot of individuals so try to have a few alcohol free evenings or if you are planning on drinking then decrease your intake and have it at least 2 hours before going to bed.
Magnesium deficiency plays a big role in insomnia. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium. Try to eat more beans, nuts and seeds, like almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds. Another great source of magnesium is avocado.