Grow Younger While You Sleep

Learn how healthy nighttime habits can help you look and feel younger

healthy sleep habits

Photo by: Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock


Here’s what happens when you get enough sleep: everything improves. Your skin becomes firmer and better hydrated, so it has a youthful glow. Sleep enhances memory, so your mind stays quick and agile, and it reduces inflammation in the body, helping to fight age-accelerating conditions such as wrinkles, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Most people need anywhere from six to eight hours of sleep; find out what works for you and then try to consistently hit that mark. To enjoy a nightly age-defying snooze, practice these before-bed habits:

Stick to a schedule
It will be easier to fall asleep at night if you turn in and wake up at the same time every day. If you occasionally miss your bedtime during the week, you can use the weekend to catch up, but you’ll feel most rested if you keep the same hours nightly.

A cool bedroom lowers your core body temperature, which initiates sleepiness. The ideal temperature is 65°F. Start there and then adjust up or down, as necessary.

Log off
That little charging light emitted by computers, mobile phones, answering machines, and PDAs is enough to suppress melatonin, the sleepiness hormone, so try to end screen time at least an hour before bedtime. Keep ambient light low, too, and don’t watch TV in bed. Turn off appliance lights (face your alarm clock away from you; charge other devices in another room), and invest in a sleep mask or even blackout curtains if streetlights are visible.

Eat earlier
Stop eating one to two hours before bedtime. The digestion process increases blood flow to the digestive tract and makes it difficult to stay asleep. The one exception: If you’re having trouble drifting off, a light combo of protein and carbs may help. Carbohydrates help your brain use tryptophan, an amino acid that causes sleepiness. And proteins help your body build tryptophan. Snack on toast with peanut butter or low-fat cheese and crackers.

Skip the nightcap
Alcohol is a known sleep disruptor, especially when you drink it right before bed. It can increase the amount of time you spend tossing and turning in the wee hours of the night. And according to research at the University of Michigan, it’s more of a problem for women than for men.

Reserve your bed for sleep
(...and sex, which some people find can make it easier to fall asleep). But nothing more. That way the power of suggestion (bed = sleep) will be more likely to take hold. You’ll walk into your bedroom, see your bed awaiting you, and feel like nodding off.

Wind down
The more active your mind, the less shut-eye you’ll get. Give yourself time in the evening to relax, even if that means you have to set an e-mail and household-chore cut-off time of 7 or 8 p.m.

Keep your bed pet-free
A Mayo Clinic survey found that 53 percent of people who share beds or bedrooms with pets have disrupted rest. It’s best to keep pets out of your room, but if you don’t have the heart to teach your old dog a new trick, set up a cozy bed on the floor.

Count blessings, not sheep
In a British study, survey respondents who scored highest in gratitude slept longer than less appreciative participants. The quality of their sleep was also better. Take a few minutes each day to mentally savor the things, large or small, that you’re thankful for.