Sleep is one of the most powerful anti-aging skin therapies I know of.
You see, your skin has its own natural rhythm. During the day, it protects you from environmental threats like chemicals, toxins, or too much sun and wind. At night your skin works to repair and renew itself.
But very few of my women patients get a full eight hours of restful sleep every night. Many still have full-time jobs. They come home to clean the house, do the laundry, shop, cook meals and care for their families. Sleep gets short shrift.
Sleepless nights can add years to your face. In a recent Harvard review, doctors found that women getting less than six hours sleep per night had about an extra nine years of cellular aging.1
Now, you already know what nine years of aging looks like on your face. It means more wrinkles, more crow’s feet, more age spots and drier skin.
And studies confirm what you see in the mirror. In a clinical trial, women who reported having poor quality sleep showed increased signs of skin aging, including fine lines and uneven pigmentation. They also showed more slackening of their skin and reduced elasticity than women who said they slept well. They had trouble recovering from skin damage like sunburn.2
Good sleepers could repair damage to their skin more quickly. Their ability to retain moisture in their skin was 30% higher than among poor sleepers.
Today I’m going to show you a simple trick you can do to fool your skin into acting like it got a solid eight hours in the sack. It all has to do with the sleep hormone melatonin.
You see, for decades we knew that melatonin was secreted in the pineal gland in the brain. We thought that was the body’s only source of melatonin. But then German scientists found melatonin receptors in the skin. And they discovered the skin also produces melatonin. It’s a separate supply from the brain.
And there’s a good reason for that. It turns out melatonin stimulates the growth of fibroblasts. Those are cells that produce collagen and elastin. Your skin’s whole structural support depends on collagen and elastin. They make your skin smooth and wrinkle-free.
But fibroblasts are very sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. That’s the kind of light you get from the sun. When fibroblasts were exposed to UV rays in a lab, only 56% of them survived. But when researchers pretreated the cells with melatonin, 92.5% survived.3
I’ve seen this in my own patients. Melatonin helps restore collagen and elastin that’s been damaged from too much sun. It helps bring back their firm, smooth skin.
Melatonin also protects skin by acting as a powerful antioxidant. It’s a stronger free radical scavenger than even vitamins C and E.
Its antioxidant powers protect skin from the aging effects of sun damage. In a study, researchers applied a melatonin gel to the lower backs of 20 volunteers. They waited 15 minutes. Then they exposed the volunteers to UV radiation. The melatonin almost completely blocked any sunburn.4
You can see now why your skin has its own separate supply of melatonin. It needs to be right there whenever your skin faces damage like UV rays. At times like that your skin can’t depend on the melatonin produced in your brain. It’s just not reliable.
Here’s why. As you get older, your pineal gland produces less melatonin. Your levels also drop when you’re stressed. Beta blockers, aspirin, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also lower your levels.
Whatever melatonin you have left goes first to making sure you get a good night’s sleep. Only very small amounts ever actually reach your skin.
But there are easy ways to boost your melatonin. Here’s what I recommend to my patients:
- Let the sun shine in. Sunlight triggers melatonin production to help you sleep deeply during the night. But it’s important to make sure the parts of your body that are usually covered up are exposed. When your face is the only part of your body that sees the sun, it creates an imbalance… and you don’t get all the positive benefits of the sun.Protect your face by wearing a hat and roll up your sleeves. Try eating your lunch outside if the weather allows it.
- Eat melatonin-rich foods. Tropical fruits help boost melatonin. Pineapples, for example, have been shown to increase blood levels of melatonin by 266%.5 Check out this chart for some other great natural sources of melatonin.
|Tart (sour) cherry juice concentrate||17,535|
|Tart (sour) cherries||1,350|
|Walnuts||270* (on average)|
- Take a melatonin supplement. I recommend about 300 mcg a day taken about 20 minutes before you want to fall asleep.Look for sprays, drops, or a sublingual tablet. Not only does the melatonin get into your system faster than if you took a capsule, it’s absorbed at a much higher rate — by as much as 50%.
But by far, topical melatonin is the most efficient way to get this anti-aging hormone to the skin where it’s needed. Topical melatonin can penetrate the tough outer layer of your skin (the stratum corneum). Once there it initiates your skin’s repair process.
Very few companies know of this research. So you won’t find topical melatonin on the shelf at your local drugstore. But a few manufacturers are starting to offer melatonin creams on the internet. Get one with no toxic chemicals added. And melatonin should be one of the top five ingredients.
Rub a little into your face and neck at night. Melatonin will help build your collagen and elastin. It will also work as a healing antioxidant and help prevent sun damage and wrinkles.
I feel so strongly about melatonin’s restorative power that I included it in my night cream formula.
Just one more thing… only use melatonin creams at night because they may make you sleepy.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Liang G, Schernhammer E, Qi L, Gao X, De Vivo I, Han J., “Associations between rotating night shifts, sleep duration, and telomere length in women.” PLoS One. 2011; 6(8):e23462.
2. University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “Sleep deprivation linked to aging skin, study suggests.” ScienceDaily, 23 July 2013.
3. Ryoo Y W, Suh S I, Mun K C, Kim B C, Lee K S. “The effects of the melatonin on ultraviolet-B irradiated cultured dermal fibroblasts.” J Dermatol Sci 2001; 27: 162–169.
4. Bangha E, Elsner P, Kistler GS, “Suppression of UV-induced erythema by topical treatment with melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). Influence of the application time point.” Dermatology 1997; 195(3):248-52.
5. Johns NP, Johns J, Porasuphatana S, Plaimee P, Sae-Teaw M. “Dietary intake of melatonin from tropical fruit altered urinary excretion of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in healthy volunteers.” J Agric Food Chem. 2013; 61(4):913-9.