Sleep is the New Botox

I don’t understand why people get Botox injections…they invariably look like someone has snuck up behind them and pulled their hair. OK, perhaps their forehead lines are diminished (temporarily), but their brows are now floating somewhere between their eyes and hairline, making them appear anywhere from mildly surprised (as in, “What do you mean I can’t have a pedi today?”) to completely taken aback (“I had no idea she was sleeping with him!!”).

Which reminds me…

You know, sleep is an amazing thing. Get a good night’s sleep (generally considered to be seven to eight hours’ worth) and you feel refreshed, renewed, rejuvenated. Enjoy several nights of uninterrupted slumber and you start to feel like half a million, maybe even a million bucks. And a steady stream of eight-hour siestas? Now you’re downright invincible. Oh, and by the way, you look younger, too.

I’m not talking catnaps, people. I’m talking dreamy, indulgent, luxurious, 800-thread-count sleep.

Impossible, you say. You’re too busy, there’s no way you can afford to power down for that long, EVERY NIGHT. Believe me, I get it. But believe me it’s worth it, for all kinds of reasons, and your youthful looks are only the beginning.

Like a lot of new moms, I didn’t get much sleep when my kids were infants. When they cried at 3:00 AM, I cried. But when they napped at 3:00 PM, I stayed up, picking up toys, doing laundry, trying to figure out what to make for dinner, etc. I was exhausted, and more than a little, shall we say…cranky. (And I wasn’t even working back then.) But at 30ish, you can cover up the dark circles with a little make-up and poof! You’re one hot mama again.

Not so much 15 or so years later, when you’re working long hours, dealing with teenagers, scoping out colleges, caring for parents in failing health, and/or insert-personal-stress-factors-here.

OK, so how do you get a good night’s sleep when you’re living on the edge? We all have things that keep us up at night…worries and fears, boogiemen and bad dreams, noisy neighbors and snoring spouses. Hell, I have a friend whose cat wakes her up at 5:00 every morning (aka, the middle of the night). It’s a wonder any of us gets enough shut-eye.

Oddly, being exhausted doesn’t always do the trick. You can be thoroughly wiped and still the Sandman can slip through your fingers like, uh, sand. You lie there, your body limp with fatigue, while your brain percolates with anxiety over all the things that you can’t do a thing about until morning.

Paging Dr. Darwin! There’s an infernal chicken-or-the-egg quality to this whole thing. Sleep well/handle stress better. Reduce stress/sleep better. What’s a frazzled body to do?

Clearly a dual approach is called for. Cut out what stress you can (dump jerky boyfriend, tell off meddling mother-in-law) so you can sleep, and try to get to bed earlier so you can better handle the stress that’s out of your control (heavy workload, sick parent).

Easier said than done, I know. But here’s something simple you CAN do: when you go to bed, turn off all the lights. Your body needs darkness to craft its seasonal brew of melatonin — the hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle. Light, especially from computers, TVs and the like, can interfere with that process, so you don’t sleep as soundly. Back in the day, I routinely used to fall asleep on the couch with Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert blaring in my ear. I would wake up in the wee hours, stumble into bed, stare at the ceiling, toss and turn, finally fall asleep again, and then wake up to the alarm, groggy as hell, to start my day.

This ridiculous schedule took its toll on me, and I became chronically sleep deprived. The reason why, I discovered, was this: Apparently, your brain can only clear itself of the cellular waste it produces during the day if it’s able to cycle through to the deepest, most restorative phases of sleep. If your sleep patterns are disrupted, you won’t get there, hence you won’t ever feel truly refreshed.

And just as important, you won’t look refreshed. In addition to those brain-restoring benefits, a good night’s sleep boosts collagen production and blood flow to the skin for a smoother, more glowing complexion. Almost sounds like a cosmetic ad, doesn’t it? I should know, I’ve written them.

So how worth it is a good night’s sleep? Besides having more energy and a brighter outlook, you’ll look brighter, too. So let those Botox addicts have their $500-a-pop fixes and floating eyebrows. Personally, I’d rather nestle into a plump pillow every night for eight glorious hours than get shot point blank between the eyes with a deadly toxin.

Now it’s my bedtime, so if you’ll excuzzzzzzzz……..

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