"Getting regular sleep isn't a luxury - it's a medical need," says Jennifer Ashton, M.D., the Englewood, author of 'Your Body Beautiful: clock-stopping secrets to staying healthy, strong and sexy in your 30s, 40s, and beyond.'
"Lack of sleep releases cortisol, which can age us internally and externally." Consistency is also key: A 2011 study in the journal, Sleep found that changes in how much or how little test subjects slept over a 5 yr. period in late middle age were associated with an accelerated cognitive decline equivalent to 4-7 years of aging! Getting a solid 7.5 hours of sleep per night lets you cycle through several REM patterns; it's in this stage of sleep that the body is able to repair itself, and is important for healing, memory skin elasticity, normal cortisol levels and metabolism, notes Mark Anderson, M.D. And author of Stay Young - Ten Proven Steps To Ultimate Health.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, Ashton recommends strategies such as keeping room temperature at 65 degrees, maintaining the same bedtime and wake up hours and calming night time rituals like taking a warm bath. She says valerian tea or tart cherry juice, which help stimulate melatonin production, are also great natural sleep aids.