Sleep

Adequate, regular sleep every night.

Melatonin is the “hormone of darkness” – it is only released into our bodies at night. Our sleep-wake cycle is based on melatonin getting released at night rather than in the day. While we sleep, melatonin is an antioxidant that travels around the body to remove free radicals (that contribute to cancer), and it controls the flow of melanin, the pigment in our skin (which is why you might look pale from sleeping too little).

During the winter, our exposure to sunlight is reduced, and more melatonin is released (sunlight inhibits the release of melatonin); this induces a form of hibernation during the winter where we feel lethargic and lack the motivation to do anything.  Sounds familiar? It’s an ingredient in sleeping pills since melatonin makes us feel groggy. 

Sleeping regularly allows your biological clock to sync smoothly so that the right chemicals can be released at the right time. You start to feel sleepy at the same time each night as melatonin kicks into action, and wake up feeling fresh and alert thanks to the natural rhythm of your body clock (or “circadian rhythm“).

Regular sleep is also associated with better skin complexion because collagen production peaks while we sleep. (Collagen is a protein that keeps the skin supple and smooth.)

Numerous other important processes related to our health are linked closely to our circadian rhythm, so it might be a decent idea to honour the internal rhythm of our body clock.

Right now, if your sleep cycle is all over the place, it could take a few days for your circadian rhythm to self-regulate (much like dealing with jetlag). It’ll be hard in the first day or two as the body automates its release of all the different hormones but, after a few days, you will definitely start to feel a refreshing difference.

Sources: 

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder
(4) http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/08/image/ig-beautysleep8 
(5) http://www.livestrong.com/article/110111-boost-collagen-production-firm/

(6) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Albarrac%C3%ADn_22.jpg

 

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