We all long for a full and uninterrupted night's sleep especially as so many feel sleep-deprived in our 24/7 lives.
Now, there are new studies out that explain for the first time the mystery of why it is so replenishing to be "out like a light" throughout the night.
The researchers confirm (what we probably already know) that a good night's sleep can prepare us for the rigours of our daily lives.
More about this recent research
Biologists at the University of Manchester in the UK
have studied mice to show how the body clock can boost the ability to maintain important cell structures during the day.
Researchers now hope that this study could help unlock some of the mysteries of aging.
The lead author of a report published in Nature Cell Biology
, Professor Karl Kadler
, writes: "Knowing this could have implications on understanding our biology at its most fundamental level. It might give us some deeper insight into how wounds heal - or how we age.
The University of Manchester's discovery throws a light on the body's extracellular matrix. This provides structural and biochemical support to cells in the form of connective tissue such as bone, skin, tendon and cartilage.
The researchers have discovered the body has two types of fibrils - those rope-like structures of collagen that are woven by the cells to form tissues.
- Thicker fibrils are permanent and stay with us throughout our lives (unchanged from the age of 17).
- Thinner fibrils break as the body is subjected to the rigours of the day - but replenish when we get a good rest at night
Professor Kadler goes on to say: "It's intuitive to think our matrix should be worn down by wear and tear; but it isn't and now we know why. Our body clock makes an element which can be replenished.
If you sleep better, you will look and feel younger
Aging is a process that often shows up in the health of our skin. One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of limiting skin aging is by ensuring adequate sleep.
If your normal sleep-wake times are disrupted, or you are exposed to light for long periods at night, the melatonin production diminishes significantly.
Secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm (sleep-wakefulness cycle) of the body. The most melanin is produced during the dark and is important as an anti-skin aging agent because of its multiple effects:
- It acts as an antioxidant and prevents free radical damage and damage from ultraviolet radiation.
- It also stimulates the growth of fibroblasts that produce collagen and elastin in the skin.
- Melatonin affects the skin tone color.
- Decreased melatonin levels reduce skin thickness, making it increasingly prone to damage.
- Melatonin also plays a role in wound healing and prevents scar formation.
Sleep deprivation also leads to increased DNA damage and inflammation, thus adding to the woes of skin in the form of wrinkles
and pigmentation changes.
As well as just looking tired, less sleep affects various facial features - leading to drooping eyelids, puffy eyes, dark circles under the eyes
, the appearance of more wrinkles, diminished hair growth and even hair damage
and hair fall.
Improving sleep quality and quantity can go a long way towards having a healthy skin while slowing down the aging process. But we don't have to sleep for one hundred years, like Sleeping Beauty did, to turn back the clock!