When you are trying to fit work, family, social life and other commitments into a hectic lifestyle it can often mean sleep is the last thing on your list of priorities. But what if we told you lack of sleep was actually ageing your skin? According to the NHS, 1 in 3 of us suffer from poor sleep and most of us need at least 8 hours, but it can vary from person to person. Sleep is vital to support health functions in the body, including your immune system, but also has vital benefits to the skin and its natural protective and renewal processes. The real meaning of beauty sleep When we sleep a hormone called Melatonin is released, flooding our body with protective antioxidants and helping to combat inflammation. This is particularly effective in the skin as inflammation is one of the main causes of ageing, and this natural boost supports collagen production and cell renewal as well as protecting against environmental damage. Lack of sleep has also been linked with weight gain, which means a healthy diet and exercise regime can potentially be less effective if you are going without enough sleep. Sleep debt from stress One of the major players in insomnia is stress, and unfortunately this type of sleep debt is particularly detrimental to skin due to the release of the stress hormone Cortisol; this hormone decreases the skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid, affecting hydration levels dramatically. Not only that, but the less we sleep the less time the body has to repair external damage to the skin making it more susceptible to this process. Get those zzz’s! Sometimes it is easier said than done to get enough sleep; when your brain won’t switch off it is difficult to coerce it into resting. The key to sleeping soundly is in how you relax before bedtime, here are our top tips on winding down: Set a schedule – try to fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day. The schedule helps to set your body’s internal clock and ensures a higher quality of sleep. Avoid bright light before you sleep – light, even a small amount, suppresses your Melatonin production. Regular exercise – studies show that regular exercise improves your quality of sleep and reduces the feeling of sleepiness during the day. Improve your sleeping environment - save your bed for sleeping; if you associate your bed with other activities such as watching TV or looking at your phone the association with sleep is reduced. Also make sure your room is kept cool, a warm room can hamper sleep. Eat your way to sleep Poor sleep can be a sign of certain deficiencies and it can’t help to make sure you are getting enough of sleep inducing vitamins and minerals. Copper and Iron – both of these minerals dramatically affect sleep patterns, if you are lacking them this can lead to disrupted sleep. Keep in mind though that these need to be balanced with other minerals, ensure not to have too high an intake. Foods include soya beans, cashews, spinach, beef and seafood. Magnesium – a deficiency of magnesium can show as insomnia. Magnesium helps to reduce the release of Cortisol, as well as contributing to helping your muscles relax. Get your magnesium fix with avocado, leafy greens, fish and seeds. Potassium – Increasing your potassium intake has been proven to help you sleep through the night; bananas are a fantastic source.