Sleep: How It Impacts Your Life, Your Looks, and Your Health!

For as long as I can remember, I have been a good sleeper.  I would be that friend at sleepovers that would sleep so long that my friends would go to church and come back and I’d still be in bed!  For a long time, my parents wouldn’t call me before noon because otherwise there was a wrath to follow.  I’m happy to say that I still love sleep, but I am up before noon. ;)  Last weekend, I sat in on a presentation by a former Navy Seal named Dr. Parsley and listened to all the things he was doing in his clinic to keep patients healthy, beautiful, and free from hormone imbalance.  You want to know what his secret is?  SLEEP!

We tend to see sleep as a luxury in the US because you can sleep when you’re dead, right?  However, many cultures value sleep, build naps into their schedule of working, and see it for what it is: a requirement for normal hormone function.  Losing hours of sleep mimics the aging process in so many ways.  Not only does it make you look older, it makes you hang on to excess weight, become cranky, and slows down your nervous system’s ability to adapt.  REM sleep specifically is when your brain converts short term memory into long term memory and without REM, you may feel as though you need to be told the same thing over and over again or read the same page in your book over and over again.  This decrease in memory and cognitive function isn’t just for the elderly, its for anyone at any age that isn’t getting enough zzz’s.

Lack of sleep also decreases your thyroid function by about 30 %.  When you have decreased thyroid function, you also have lowered cognitive capability and tend to lose your ability to react to stressful situations without being overly emotional.  Can we say “middle age sob-fest?!”  If I see anything in practice becoming a huge concern, it’s hypothyroidism.  There are thyroid receptors on every single cell in your body.  If you’re not making enough, you could experience things like anxiety, constipation, cold intolerance, skin issues, and a complete lack of energy.  I won’t go off on a tangent, but the normal ranges for TSH these days are NOT normal.  If this sounds like you, have someone take a closer look with you….please.

For all of you out there trying to fight the aging process, decreased sleep decreases your collagen, elastin, and keratin production in your skin which results in wrinkles, dull skin, and brittle hair.  UGH.  Who knew that you could bypass all those appointments with the dermatologist by just getting more sleep!?  Have you ever wondered what actually makes people look their age?  Think about it.  How do you know someone is 20 vs 28?  20 vs 35?  puppy vs dog?  It’s hard to pinpoint how you KNOW someone is around a certain age when it’s not due to grey hair or wrinkles, but we usually know approximately what age someone is.  It’s actually because of fat pad distribution.  You have fat pads above and below your eyes which open them up and a fat pad behind the eye that pushes your eye forward.  As that fat decreases, your eyes sink in ever so slightly and you continue to age.  Many people get BOTOX to look younger, but according to Dr. Parsley, it makes your muscles atrophy and you ultimately end up looking older because as your fat pads redistribute and muscles harden, you get something he calls “skeleton face.”

As if beauty, cognitive function, and thyroid production wasn’t enough, lack of sleep also decreases your testosterone production and insulin sensitivity by about 30%!  Tons of people are flocking to get testosterone replacement to stay youthful and lean; it is HUGE for what your body looks like.  Lowered testosterone also contributes to sex drive in both men and women!  Decreased sleep results in lack of sex drive, getting pudgy, and developing signs of diabetes!  Man, if only we just valued sleep, we could avoid being dumb, fat, ugly, and slow, and possibly diabetic!  Let me put sprinkles on the cake here and say that if you are an athlete, REM sleep is when your body rebuilds by producing anabolic hormones. So, yes, even the young, lean, athletes require sleep.

EVERYONE NEEDS SLEEP!  Aim for 8 hours a night and anything less is building a sleep debt. If you have trouble sleeping regardless of all your attempts, you may have something bigger going on and should consider testing; your health relies on it. We can’t escape aging but we can age well, age gracefully, and be a badass at any age!

My Take on the Aging Process; Wrinkles vs. Passion Lines

I am big on doing things when you are feeling passionate about them.  That passion and energy comes through, and it definitely makes a difference.  This is a topic that I have had sitting in my back pocket for over a year now.  I have had several moments where I got fired up about it and should’ve written a post then, but decided not to because sometimes strong energy around sensitive topics can cause drama.  This is a drama-free zone.  So, I kept deciding it wasn’t worth it.  Until now….

I was at the salon getting my hair done the other day and my hairstylist and I were talking about my grey hairs.  I have admitted this many times, so that is no surprise.  I definitely noticed them when I colored my hair black…can’t hide anything with black hair!  I told her that they really don’t bother me, and I meant it!  I have been highlighting my hair for years now, and I’m sure someone is thinking “if they don’t bother you, then why do you dye them?”  If you have colored your hair, you know it’s not that easy to just stop.  You have this weird half colored, half natural hair thing going on that is definitely not natural or cute looking. lol.  I started toying with my hair color in high school when it had nothing to do with grey hair; however, I am not in high school anymore!  So, until I figure out how to make that transition to natural in a way that I don’t have to cut off all my length, I will probably continue to highlight.

Having said that, when we were talking about my greys, I also brought up wrinkles.  I was watching some trashy tv show one day with 20 year olds sitting around laughing and one says “We need to stop laughing, we are going to get wrinkles.”  They all went silent and erased their smiles in an attempt to avoid those god awful wrinkles.  What is wrong with this picture?  It is an obvious sign that our culture is obsessed with looking young.  This is where my opinion starts….

There are no procedures that will make you look 20 again.  So, I would never want to chase such an unattainable goal.  Then I start asking myself, what if I could be 20 again, would I want that?  My answer is very strongly “no.”  Don’t get me wrong, college life was an amazing time, I had amazing personal growth during those times, and I had more life adventures than I can count.  However, now that I am well into my 30s, I know who I am, my purpose in life, confidence in my abilities, and what I want.  These things only come with life experience that you just haven’t had time to have when you are 20.

Within those years, I have laughed, I have passionately argued, I have stood up for causes, I have experienced.  Therefore, when you look at me, I have wrinkles that I call “passion lines.”  I eluded to this in an old post.  The lines on my face mean something to me, why would I want to erase them?  They tell me:

  1. I have laughed (with friends, family, at movies, with people)
  2. I have smiled (to greet everyone I see, when thinking about my blessings, for photos of experiences, when I’m happy)
  3. I have concentrated heavily (So much studying, working on patient cases, reading, etc)
  4. I have researched (I can’t count the hours of studying to be where I am)
  5. I have listened (when I do this I often furrow my brow…to patients, to friends, to teachers)
  6. I have practiced empathy (You make a face when hearing someone’s story….I promise)
  7. I have taught (When I teach, I get so fired up that I often have dramatic facial expressions when touching on important points)
  8. I have endured (look at anyone pushing their limits physically and you will see that you make a face when you endure something that makes you want to give up)
  9. I have had years to experience life
  10. I have had years to express my feelings

Why would I want to erase any of that?  Why would I want to portray to anyone that they things have never occurred?  Why would I want to minimize my life for a more naive version?  If I wouldn’t want to be 20, why would I want to look 20?

The lines on your face, scars on your body, and greying of your hair all have stories.  They are your own personal blueprint.  Take care of yourself in order to “look great for your age,” but don’t feel the need to erase your journey in the pursuit of youth.  That may mean erasing all the things so important to you….spouses, kids, careers, travels, etc.  Feel comfortable with aging.  Look forward to what the next 10 years will bring (inevitably it will include more lines, too if you are living).  Love yourself not just for how you look, but where you’ve been.  If not for your own happiness, for your future generation to appreciate what living entails.  I have hope that we will start to cherish age and quit running from it.  I hope my passion lines continue to develop because I fear if they weren’t, that I may have lost my way.