I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us prefer to have good things arrive quickly and stay forever.
Natural beauty is no different — we desire it to be there our entire lives. It can be with us since birth, but leave quickly in our young adult years due to internal and external neglect. Or it can come to us later in life, when we first learn how to really take care of ourselves and unleash the beauty that’s been hiding.
Either way, one thing is eternally important to natural beauty:
Yes yes, you sleep by default, but sleeping properly will bring you infinitely more energy, health, and therefore, beauty.
We have all been taught to “get your 8 hours of sleep!” but without any decent explanation. Sleep is restorative to our brain and every cell in our bodies. Whether you are a monophasic or polyphasic sleeper, the amount of time you spend sleeping is a chance for your body to work on repairs and generate an even chemical playing field for your brain. University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Medical School have completed studies indicating that a good night’s sleep regulates your mood and helps you cope with the challenges of your waking hours. Well-rested people are happier, less-stressed, and more consistent with their moods. They also tend to smile more, be friendlier, and because their brains are better equipped to deal with stress, there is less silent impact on their cells (i.e. inflammation, oxidation/free radical damage), and therefore their outward appearance is more naturally beautiful.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: less stress and more proper sleep means no weight gain (assuming you don’t eat crap food all the time), and being lean (not stick thin, don’t get me wrong) is an undeniable sign of health and beauty.
And while you might get 8–9 hours of sleep every night, take a look at when you are going to sleep. Are you on a super late night schedule? 1 am to 10 am, 3 am to noon? If so, try switching to a schedule that better suits your natural circadian rhythms. This is the clock your body is naturally set to (just like every living thing on the planet) and operates the best on. If you’ve ever experienced jet lag or insomnia, then you know what it’s like to have fallen off your natural rhythm. You never see any groggy birds, insomniac deer, or squirrels that won’t leave the house without first drinking a cup of coffee and putting on makeup to hide the hints of sleep deprivation on their faces. For me, getting on a better schedule means going to sleep by 10 pm and waking up by 7 am.
But it’s not always like that, because modern society says that going to a movie at midnight with your family and friends is perfectly acceptable, and staying up til 3 am to finish a paper or an epic blog post is also just fine and dandy. But your body doesn’t see it that way, and falling into those time traps forces our system to work outside its most efficient state. Sure, our bodies are amazing, adaptable biological machines, but why should we take advantage of that all the time? Why not work with our bodies, instead of constantly working against them in order to satisfy every temporary whim? Let’s do what we can for our health that is within our immediate personal power. For instance, we can’t get rid of all the air pollution outside by ourselves, but if we take away some of those extra stressors that are so unnecessary (i.e. not getting proper sleep, eating junk food, smoking), we’d be so much healthier and beautiful — immediately!
So here’s some take-away tips that will have you waking up the next morning feeling and looking more beautiful than before:
1. Set yourself up for a wonderful sleep — whether that’s lighting a few candles, reading a boring book or a page-turner, taking a soak in the bath, having some fun with your partner, or listening to some relaxing music.
2. Don’t exercise within 3–4 hours of your intended sleep time, as it can energize you instead of inducing sleep (a relaxing yoga class may have the opposite effect).
3. Don’t drink coffee. Better yet, avoid anything with refined sugar or caffeine. Not only does it completely screw up your brain chemistry and your ability to have a normal, restful sleep schedule, it also dehydrates your skin and can cause premature wrinkling. You don’t need coffee to wake up. You don’t see dogs and deer dragging their feet to the coffee pot. Sleeping properly, eating better, and exercising will provide you with all-day natural energy.
4. Avoid computer activities within 1 hour of going to sleep. Stimulating your brain with the bright light and information overload of a computer is generally not a good idea right before bed. This has been the best adjustment for me personally, since my work revolves around a computer. I shut everything down 1–2 hours before bed, and I’m guaranteed to fall asleep quickly and have a good night’s sleep. If not, it can take me an hour to “turn my brain off” and sleep may not be as restful.
5. Aim for going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. This gets you in tune with your body’s natural, most efficient rhythms, meaning you will feel more energetic, be more productive, be more emotionally stable, and be more relaxed. And since your cells will be repaired quicker, you will look more refreshed. If you like being a late-night person (like me), but definitely see the benefits of getting on a healthier sleep time, then I recommend you read Steve Pavlina’s helpful article on how to become an early riser.
6. An important part of sleep is what you’re sleeping on. Ever notice the smooshed red cheeks and frizzed-out hair of most people when they wake up in the morning? Surprisingly, it is entirely due to their pillowcase. The fibers of the majority of pillowcases, even cotton, are rough on the skin and tend to fray the hair (and will even contribute to breakage), and you will find that the many beautiful women (and handsome men) in history have slept on silk. Silk has a beautiful consistency that meshes incredibly well with our own skin, and its benefits to the skin are widely known. I’ve been sleeping on this DreamSacks silk pillowcase for 7 years and even bring one with me when I travel — after you start sleeping on silk, sleeping on a regular pillowcase will feel like sandpaper. This isn’t meant to sound snooty, because silk is more affordable now (DreamSacks are $58 for a set of 2 and they’re offering 10% off with code 10DREAM09 if you order by December 31st, 2009) and it’s just plain better for your skin and hair overall. Sleeping properly for natural beauty definitely includes sleeping on a skin-friendly fabric!
7. Having trouble sleeping? Try taking magnesium. It is a mineral almost all of us are deficient in, and it’s too bad because magnesium is responsible for relaxing your body and eliminating waste build-up in cells. Try to eat magnesium-rich snacks throughout the day or an hour before bed, such as a handful of raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, a cup of spinach or any other dark green, or 4 ounces of fish (namely salmon, halibut, and tuna). You can also take magnesium in powder form. Pure Essence Ionic Fizz Magnesium Plus and Peter Gillham’s Natural Calm are both excellent magnesium supplements and what I take when I haven’t been eating my greens. ;D