Dr. Amy Wechsler, a New York dermatologist, recently had a patient walk into her office and point to a wrinkle that had not been there a week before.
“I asked what had changed in her life, and sure enough, she hadn’t been sleeping,” Wechsler said.
Beauty is sleep; sleep, beauty. But in our harried multitasking worlds, sleep, like truth, can sometimes be compromised.
Wechsler, the author of “The Mind-Beauty Connection,” said that there’s no quick fix to getting enough sleep, only a slow, mindful one.
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“There has to be a plan; you have to slow down,” she said.
The main issue for most of us, according to Michael Breus, a psychologist who calls himself the Sleep Doctor, is anxiety.
“And for that you need something to calm your brain,” he said.
Breus treats patients with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques like “worry journals.” On one page a problem is written out, and on an opposite page a solution, right before bed. Even if the solution is “I’ll figure it out tomorrow,” said Breus, the act of writing out what’s keeping their brains awake helps his patients “close their minds to their lists of anxieties.” For those who wake up in the middle of the night, he offers an MP3 of a progressive muscle-relaxation meditation.
Rubin Naiman, a sleep and dream specialist who conducts workshops at ashrams and spas nationwide, emphasized that people should avoid trying too hard to fall asleep and that they need to learn how to “fall in love with sleep again,” adding that it must be invoked “through ritual and pleasure.”
To that end, Naiman was instrumental in forming the concept behind Sleep Studio, a store in New York’s SoHo that carries luxury skin-care products, silk pajamas and state-of-the-art mattresses.
Cosmetics companies are getting into the game with products like Kneipp’s Deep Sleep Mineral Bath Salt, with valerian and hops, and Éminence’s Age Corrective Night line, made with lavender. Bath and Body Works has an aromatherapy collection called Sleep, which includes a pillow mist, sugar scrub and massage oil. And Hope Gillerman’s essential oil line, which works with acupressure points to ease mind-body stresses, includes a product called Natural Rest Sleep Remedy.
Herbals with calming qualities include valerian and magnolia bark, according to Breus. As for the reputed soothing elements of lavender, he is supportive of it for setting the mood and causing a relaxation response but not for putting you to sleep.
“You don’t just sniff something and pass out,” he said.
Breus advised against alcohol before bed because it keeps you out of delta (deep) sleep, which is where most cellular repair takes place. “Plus it’s a diuretic, which means bathroom breaks will interrupt natural sleep,” he said.
But what if you forgo that glass of wine, complete your worry journal, take a warm bath, sniff your lavender pillow, drink some warm milk, read half of “War and Peace” and are still unable to fall asleep?
This is when Naiman’s Jedi mind tricks may prove helpful.
“Sleep is always there in the background of your consciousness,” he said. “These clinical attempts at sleep are imbued with a sense of determination, but that very thing undermines the process.”
So, Naiman said: “The core issue is learning to surrender, to let go. Sleep is delicious, it’s not just a servant of waking life. It’s to be indulged.”