Since the 1800s, mothers have been telling their daughters to get their beauty sleep.

The dictionary defines this phrase, which has worked its way into our vernacular, as “sleep before midnight, assumed to be necessary for one’s beauty.” Why has sleep long been assumed “necessary for one’s beauty,”and why does no one tell men to get it? The latter question begs a separate conversation, but what we know for certain is that all humans look better with sleep. Getting enough shut-eye brightens our complexions and helps us to maintain a healthy weight.

But how? What actually goes on inside our bodies while we sleep? The answer, according to the research, is, simply, a lot. During sleep,your to-do list may not be getting any shorter, but your body is doing work.

It’s repairing itself and striving to restore balance, its natural state. It’s doing everything it knows how to do to heal from the environmental and dietary toxins you’ve exposed it to during the day. It’s producing cytokines, or proteins, that reduce inflammation.

It’s making new collagen, the protein that gives your skin glow and elasticity. It’s releasing human growth hormone. Some experts call this HGH; others call it the “fountain of youth hormone” because it stimulates the repair of damaged cells.

Beyond the fact that your body is doing a lot of things while you sleep that give you energy, vitality and, yes, beauty, it’s also true that sleep deprivation shows up in visible ways. When you’re tired your blood flows more slowly, so blood collects under your eyes, appearing as dark circles, and hair follicles don’t get the nutrients they need to grow new hair.You get hungrier, and less motivated to exercise.

Sleep may be necessary for one’s beauty, but it’s also for a healthy, happy life in general.  

Shut-eye strengthens your immune system. This is why doctors prescribe rest for illness and it’s why your natural inclination is to sleep when you’re sick.

Sleep also makes you smarter. While you’re dreaming, your brain cells are essentially rewiring themselves, adapting to the information you received in wakefulness.

The consequences of not getting enough sleep are grim in ways that go beyond looking tired or being forgetful.

After just one night of poor sleep, the cells that attack cancer cells disappear. Lack of sleep is linked to Alzheimer’s, cancer,diabetes, and poor mental health, among other serious conditions. Sleeping less than six hours a night increases your blood pressure and your chances of having a stroke or heart attack by 200%.

All of this science is more pertinent now than ever before.Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California Berkeley, has said he believes we are currently in a“catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic.”

He believes this is because of how our culture has changed: we’ve lit up the night; we work and drive too much; we’re lonelier and more worried than ever before.

All of these are convincing reasons to go to sleep. Lack of shut-eye is not an indicator of success or “busy-ness”; in fact, it’s downright dangerous.

To ensure you’re getting a good night’s rest, have a consistent routine. Go to bed and wake up around the same time. Avoid eating a big meal too late in the day and drinking too much fluid before bed. Keep electronics out of your room.

It’s necessary for your beauty, but it’s also necessary for building a life worth living.

Written by Allyson Welch

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