Here's a bit of info that will shock you:
The age old idiom of "get your beauty sleep" is actually sound advice. Turns out that a lack of sleep -- both quality and quantity-wise -- accelerates aging. That means that despite expensive beauty creams, teeth whiteners and deep hair conditioners, your skin, hair, nails and teeth will all feel the effects of poor sleeping habits.
You probably already know, based on personal experience, that poor sleep leaves you feeling groggy, uninspired and unfocused throughout the day. In addition to those side effects, though, your body isn't able to heal well or regenerate damaged tissues and cells. Hence, increased aging. Also note that poor sleep results in weight gain since it causes metabolic and hormonal changes and causes hunger for not-so-healthy foods (such as starch, sugar, fat and salt).
AOL Shopping spoke to Dr. Steven Y. Park
, a board certified otolaryngologist and attending surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. He's also the author of "Sleep Interrupted: A Physician Reveals the #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick and Tired.
We asked Dr. Park how our readers could easily improve their sleep. Based on our chat we've provided six tips that'll help you sleep well tonight (and look better in the morning).
Make Your Belly Happy
Don't consume any food or beverage three to four hours before you go to bed.
"Having extra juices in your stomach can be suctioned up into your throat and cause more obstructions and arousals," explained Park.
If you must consume some sort of food or drink, try to eat something that doesn't irritate your belly. Such foods lead to heartburn or acid indigestion and will keep you up throughout the night. If you've accidentally eaten something that doesn't settle well, take an over the counter antacid such as Alka Seltzer
($4 to $20), Philips' Milk of Magnesia
($5 to $20) or Pepto Bismol
($3 to $20). Always take as directed by your physician.
On that same note, also avoid alcohol within three to four hours of bedtime. Dr. Park says that alcohol relaxes your throat muscles and causes more snoring and apneas (a pause in breathing).
Improve Nasal Air Flow
Snores, coughs and gasps, oh my!
One of the most common causes of poor sleep is the inability to breath as well as you should. While you may be able to fall asleep, it's common to sleep very lightly and wake up throughout the night without even knowing you're doing so. This is a problem for women, especially, notes Dr. Park.
"Many women are light sleepers due to their upper airway anatomy," he says. "Women have smaller faces and relatively more recessed chins which leads to a smaller space behind the tongue. When in deep sleep, due to muscle relaxation, breathing can be obstructed."
This leads to quick arousals, taking you from deep sleep to light sleep.
So how do you fix the problem? Start by doing everything you can to breath better through your nose. Dr. Park recommends a nasal saline product to improve the "irrigation" of your nasal passage. Try XClear Saline Nasal Spray
($5.60), Ayr Saline Nasal Drops
($2.70) or Ultra Ocean Sterile Saline Nasal Mist
Also consider using a product such as Breathe Right Strips
($5 to $20) if you have flimsy or thin nostrils. The strips pull your nostrils out and keep them from collapsing in the night. This may also eliminate snoring, which helps your partner sleep better, too.
Ward Off and Treat Allergies
Even if you use breathing strips and saline products to improve your breathing passage, allergies will undue your efforts. Address any allergies you have -- or think you may have -- immediately.
Start by reading up on allergies both online or by purchasing books on the topic. Also take any necessary allergy medicine to relieve symptoms. Zyrtec Allergy Tablets
($18 for 30 tablets) are well priced and address a host of allergy issues. You can also try Benedryl, or a generic version
of the product ($21). If persistent, contact your physician.
Another key bit of advice is to use non-allergy causing bedding. For example, Comfort Revolution's Memory Foam and Hydraluxe Cooling Gel Pillow
($69) is ideal for those suffering from allergies since it's hypoallergenic. The pillow, pictured at right, also stays cool and contours to your neck, head and upper spine. Use code STPATTYS
for 17% off. Contouring pillows are especially great for those who sleep on their backs and will help improve your breathing, as well.
Dust, hair or dirt on bedding is another common allergy-inducing culprit. Wash bedding once weekly (at the very least) with a non-scented, chemical-free laundry detergent. Products such as Clorox's Green Works
and Seventh Generation Free and Clear Natural Laundry Liquid
($8.99) are good choices.
Three Additional Tips
1. Get the right kind of light
before bedtime and when you wake up in the morning.
"Don't use the computer or watch TV just before bedtime," says Dr. Park. "Bright lights can suppress melatonin production, which normally rises just before you fall asleep."
He recommends getting natural sunlight into your eyes before turning on a lamp or other artificial light.
can help you feel more relaxed in the evening. This helps you fall asleep faster and more soundly. Try a specially formulated product from 21 Drops, such as their Sleep Aromatherapy Essential Oil
($30) or Calm Aromatherapy Essential Oil
Shop more aromatherapy products here
3. According to Dr. Park, everyone has different needs for mattresses.
He suggests experimenting until you find one that suits your needs. One option is to sleep in a hotel that has a specific mattress you're interested in.
"The less pressure points you have while sleeping, the less likely you'll wake up," says Dr. Park. "The more time you spend in light sleep, the more you're likely to keep tossing and turning."
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