Expert shares how to get some much needed beauty sleep

Dr Maureen Allem, founder of Skin Renewal, shares a holistic approach to achieving better sleep health

15 April 2024 - 21:26 By Nokubonga Thusi
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Sleep is the foundation of our overall health and wellbeing, says expert.
Sleep is the foundation of our overall health and wellbeing, says expert.
Image: 123RF/MILKOS

As sleep wellness gains in popularity, we explore the best ways to get the quality sleep your body has been craving. Dr Maureen Allem, founder of Skin Renewal, shares a holistic approach to achieving better sleep health.

Why is sleep so important for our mental and physical wellbeing?

Sleep is the foundation of our overall health and wellbeing, yet it’s often overlooked in our busy lives. It’s not just a time for our bodies to rest — it’s also a period of profound restoration and rejuvenation, affecting both physical and our mental health. First and foremost, restorative sleep is essential for our mental wellbeing.

During this critical phase, which occurs predominantly during deep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, our brains undergo essential processes such as detoxification, information processing and memory consolidation. This allows us to wake up feeling refreshed, clear-headed and ready to tackle the day ahead. Conversely, a lack of restorative sleep can lead to cognitive impairment and mood disturbances, and even contribute to mental-health disorders such as depression, anxiety and early-onset memory loss.

What are the short-term and long-term effects of bad sleep on the skin and body?

Chronic sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your skin by reducing collagen production, which keeps it strong and elastic. This breakdown in your skin’s natural barriers makes it more susceptible to damage, such as wrinkles becoming more prominent. Poor sleep quality can also lead to skin imbalances, acne, redness and a lacklustre complexion. Studies have shown that inadequate sleep can speed up the ageing process of your skin.

More importantly, your immune system relies on good sleep to keep your skin and body healthy. Studies show that sleep loss can affect different parts of the immune system, leading to a higher risk of disorders, reduced immune function and infection. Sleep also influences the gut microbiome, and poor gut health can negatively affect sleep, creating a vicious cycle. The benefits of restorative sleep extend far beyond the realm of skin and mental health. From a physical standpoint, uninterrupted sleep is vital for the optimal functioning of our bodies.

It’s during sleep that our tissues undergo repair and regeneration, our hormone levels are regulated and our immune system is bolstered. In fact, research has shown that individuals who consistently get enough quality sleep are less susceptible to infections and chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even certain types of cancer. If you want to maintain that youthful glow and overall skin and body health, making quality sleep a priority is crucial.

What are your thoughts on the viral TikTok ‘Sleepy Girl Mocktail’?

The Sleepy Girl Mocktail is a drink that has been making rounds online as a potential aid for better sleep. It is made up of tart cherry juice, magnesium powder and a fizzy mixer such as sparkling water or prebiotic soda. Tart cherry juice contains melatonin, which is a hormone that induces drowsiness at bedtime, and tryptophan, which gets converted into serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation.

Magnesium is a vital mineral involved in regulating melatonin and stress-hormone cortisol production, and adequate levels are needed to promote muscle relaxation. While there is limited research on the effectiveness of the Sleepy Girl Mocktail, proponents say it can support relaxation and promote sleep. However, it is not a cure for insomnia or a sure-fire antidote to poor sleep. It’s also essential to consult a healthcare provider before trying a new supplement, as it may interact with medication or have potential side effects, and to get a sleep study if you have trouble sleeping.

How do you differentiate between having a bad night and a sleeping disorder?

Understanding the difference between bad sleep and a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is crucial for getting the right help. Bad sleep can stem from various factors, but OSA is different. It’s marked by repeated blockages in the airway during sleep, causing breathing disruptions. If you’re experiencing symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, witnessed apnoeas or gasping/choking episodes during sleep, this is indicative of OSA, which is essential to diagnose as it has numerous life-threatening conditions such as atrial fibrillation and sudden cardiac death.

Untreated OSA can also lead to silent reflux, which a lot of people suffer from owing to the negative effects of OSA on the upper airway and intra-abdominal pressure. With untreated OSA, a “vacuum effect” or negative pressure is created in the thorax during apnoeic events, drawing stomach acid or contents up the oesophagus to the back of the throat. Signs of OSA could be hypertension, type-2 diabetes or weight gain.

If you have any of the above symptoms, it’s imperative to go for a sleep study to help pinpoint the issue. Talk to your neurologist or pulmonologist and insist on scheduling a sleep study. A study published in 2021 evaluated the affect of OSA on cardiometabolic health in a random sample of older adults in rural South Africa and found that 29% of participants had OSA. A sleep study is the first step towards better sleep and improved health.

What is the perfect night-time skincare routine to promote more rejuvenated and youthful skin?

It should involve several steps, including cleansing, toning, treating, moisturising and using masks and targeted treatments. The first step is to remove makeup and cleanse the skin thoroughly to remove impurities and pollutants that have accumulated during the day. Then tone the skin to rebalance and soothe it. 

The third step is to use a nourishing eye treatment to reduce the appearance of dark circles and fine lines, while the fourth is to hydrate with a restoring night cream to help skin repair itself overnight faster and more efficiently. The fifth step is to incorporate a treatment to maximise radiance and improve skin health. Finally, it is important to protect the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays with SPF during the day. Some ingredients to look out for include retinol, hyaluronic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids and vitamin-A derivatives.

What are some of the game-changing treatments at Skin Renewal that one can do to help promote better sleep?

Our health-coaching programme is at the heart of what we do. Led by trained doctors and supported by registered nurses, our personalised coaching covers everything from optimising sleep to managing stress, improving gut health and more. It’s about empowering you to make lasting changes that promote overall wellness and vitality. Our consultations are not just about addressing surface-level concerns; they’re about delving deep into your health needs and crafting personalised solutions.

Whether you’re struggling with sleep issues, skin concerns or weight management, our doctor-led consultations are designed to address your needs from every angle, offering tailored advice and comprehensive support. Our Renewal Institute Diet (RID) programme, for example, provides personalised health coaching, guidance and support to address various health aspects, including sleep optimisation, gut health, stress management, healthy nutrition, exercise, detoxification and inflammation.

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