The Link Between Collagen and Sleep
Collagen is the main part of connective tissue in the body. It's the main structural protein in the extracellular space (in between the cells), and is the most abundant protein in mammals. As a protein, it consists of amino acids (glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine) wound together to form fibrils that make up fibrous tissues like skin, tendons, and ligaments. It's also found all through bone, blood vessels, intervertebral discs, and teeth. Thanks to collagen, we're able to move, bend, and stretch. It's what makes hair shine, skin glow, and nails strong. It's also responsible for keeping our skin toned and supple. The more we age and the more stress we put on our bodies, the more negatively we impact our collagen production.
Collagen and Skin
Collagen is an important building block for our skin, making up 30% of the protein in our body, and 70% of the protein in our skin. Most of the skin's collagen is found in the dermal layer (the middle layer). It's responsible for maintaining our skin's elasticity and firmness. As we age, the production of collagen starts to slow, so skin can become fragile and less elastic. Hair may also start to lose its color, joints become less flexible, and bone may lose density. In addition, "at high levels, cortisol [your body's stress hormone] stimulates the degradation of skin's collagen [back into amino acids] and elastic tissue," says Debra Jaliman, a New York City dermatologist and author of Skin Rules. The result is premature aging.
How Can You Counteract That?
There are a few things that you can do to help counteract this process. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle including eating foods known to boost collagen are vitally important. These would include bone broth, wild salmon, chlorella, leafy greens, citrus, eggs, berries, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, avocados, garlic, and chia seeds.
What About Beauty Sleep?
Above everything else, there is one thing you can do to help boost your body's ability to create collagen. Get a good night's sleep! While you sleep, your skin is making new collagen. "That's part of the repair process," says Patricia Wexler, MD, a dermatologist in New York. Since collagen is linked to your skin's elasticity, adequate collagen production leads to plump skin that is less likely to wrinkle and doesn't appear saggy. When you don't get a full night's sleep, your body doesn't have the time to produce new, fresh cells and fix yesterday's damage, so you're practically welcoming accelerated aging with open arms. Collagen may also prematurely stiffen, creating lines and wrinkles, according to Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
How Does It Work?
During the deep stages of sleep (stages three and four), there is a surge in the secretion of growth hormone, which helps to repair and rebuild the body's tissues. This naturally occurring growth hormone stimulates cell production and is believed to play a big part in maintaining the collagen matrix, and therefore, the appearance of youthfulness.
Stress plays a big factor, too. Avoiding stress and getting adequate sleep will help to maintain healthy cortisol levels in the body. The body's cortisol level in the blood peaks early in the morning, and reaches its lowest level about three to five hours after the onset of sleep. Maintaining healthy levels of cortisol will help to keep it from breaking down collagen back into its amino acid building blocks.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
A full good night's sleep is what is recommended. That means getting quality, undisturbed Zzz's. The National Sleep Institute recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Only getting 5 hours a night can lead to twice as many fine lines as sleeping 7. It also leaves skin drier, which can make lines more visible, Wexler says. One study shows that even as little as one night of poor sleep will have a negative impact on various components of skin health. Another study indicated that chronic poor sleep quality is associated with signs of intrinsic aging, diminished skin barrier function, and lower satisfaction with appearance.
To Supplement or Not to Supplement
Research shows that taking a collagen supplement can be very beneficial to many of the body's systems, not just the skin.
Just as a good night's sleep can have a positive impact on collagen production, a collagen supplement may help improve sleep quality. Studies are showing that collagen, and particularly glycine, helps to improve the quality of sleep. Increased glycine concentrations caused an increase in cutaneous blood flow, which leads to a decline in core body temperature. Lower body temperature is associated with the onset of sleep. Glycine is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it's a natural at calming the brain and creating balance.
This could mean that supplementing with collagen could lead to a beneficial circle. Not only will that provide the necessary materials to supply skin with the collagen ingredients it needs, but will encourage the body to provide the time and energy necessary (through sleep) to refresh its collagen most effectively.