Why You Need A Nighttime Self-Care Routine (And How To Make One)

By bolstering your sleep hygiene, you can wake up to fresher skin, and a clearer mindset.

man sleeping on a bed
Words by Ashley Ogawa Clarke
Jan 14, 2023 

About Ashley Clarke

Ashley Ogawa Clarke is an editor and writer, and a consultant for Humanery. Ashley is the former Deputy Editor of MR PORTER, the online menswear destination, and has previously written for US Vogue, GQ Style, the Telegraph, Wall Street Journal and the Observer among others. He has been writing about men’s skincare for ten years, and is currently based in Tokyo, Japan.

New year, new you? While I’m firmly of the opinion that New Year’s Resolutions can be useful catalysts for developing better habits (and you can read mine and other Humanery contributors’ resolutions here), it’s also sensible to be realistic. With that in mind, drop the goal for washboard abs and consider a resolution you that will make 2023 measurably more bearable: get some more sleep.

According to research in 2022 by UCL done over the course of 25 years, regular lack of sleep (of five hours or less) was linked to higher rates of mortality and chronic diseases among the over 50s. Research also shows that poor sleeping patterns can trigger the release of cortisol, an inflammatory “stress” hormone that can make you more prone to acne, early signs of ageing, and obesity. In other words, if you find yourself burning the midnight oil too often – or just scrolling through Twitter when you should be sleeping – getting into some better habits before you hit the hay every night will be worth it.

This statistic will not help the feelings of helplessness that many men experience when they start to thin up top. Body image and sense of self is intrinsically bound to the crowns on our head, meaning symptoms of anxiety and depression are common. So, what to do?

The good news is that a well curated nighttime routine can help, and making a few smart changes before you hit the hay can do wonders for both your skin and your mindset. If fewer fine lines and more z’s sounds good, read on for a few tips on creating an ideal nighttime routine. Heads up: you may want to set your morning alarm to be louder than usual.

Keep To A Regular Routine

While a ‘bedtime routine’ might sound juvenile, adults can also benefit from keeping things the same every night. By establishing a similar time to “switch off” each night, your circadian rhythm (also known as your body clock) will begin to regulate. To help make it a habit, start with your grooming routine. Choose a cleanser and moisturiser with a pleasant scent that you associate with winding down – John Masters makes an excellent lavender and chamomile cleansing bar that is perfect for chilling out, while Anatome’s pillow spray is like an insomniac’s kryptonite.

Get Into Retinol

Retinol, which has become somewhat of a buzzword-slash-miracle ingredient in skincare, essentially means Vitamin A that has has been formulated for topical use to address premature signs of ageing and acne. It works by increasing skin cell production, meaning it’s something of a ticket to a younger looking face when incorporated into your nighttime routine. You also don’t need to use it every night – once or twice a week is enough at first, while you build up a tolerance.

The reasons for using it overnight are threefold: firstly, it can make skin more sensitive, meaning you should follow it up with an SPF the following day. Secondly, the efficacy of the retinol itself will be diminished by exposure to sunlight – which sounds weirdly vampiric, but means that it’s best used after sunset. Finally, because our skin regenerates more as we sleep, this helps the retinol to really do its job to unclog pores, exfoliate the skin, and smooth out any fine lines. Which isn’t half bad, considering all you have to do is sleep through it.

Invest In A Sleep Mask

Central heating, office air con, and wintry air all work as a kind of ultra-drying trifecta to make wintertime skin as miserable and papery as a cartographer’s attic. Remedy moisture starved skin with a sleep mask; I’ve found few things on the skincare market that have as instant and satisfying an effect, and can have you waking up the next morning with noticeably brighter skin.

Choose one that’s been formulated for all skin types – The Grey’s Overnight Sleeping Mask is one of the best – to reap the benefits even if you have oily or combination skin. By tightening pores, reducing inflammation and aiding healthy looking skin, it’s a proper overnight multitasker that’s more than worth the two minutes it’ll take to apply before bed.

Get Some Help Drifting Off

If you’re anything like me, the idea of taking something to help you nod off can sound a bit too much like reliance – the last thing I need when I’m sleep-deprived is a dependency on sleeping pills.

Fortunately, there’s a new generation of sleep-improving supplements out there that offer a more holistic and gentle approach to helping you drift off – and best of all, won’t leave you feeling like you’ve glugged half a bottle of Night Nurse the next morning.

To find a reliable sleep supplement, look for ones that contain stress relieving amino acids, such as TenT Nutrition’s night supplement, that works to boost serotonin and melatonin and, without getting too technical, raises the body’s level of GABA, an amino acid that works to reduce the brain’s excitability, therefore aiding, rather than forcing, deep and restful sleep.

Man with his back turned drifting into sleep

Heat Up Your Sleep Hygiene

We live in a world that doesn’t want us to go to sleep. Social media is powered by the amount of eyeballs it can attract at any given time – if Elon Musk could spin a few more bucks for Twitter by serving you adverts in your dreams, he would. Depressing, but fighting back is possible. It’s well documented that our phones, laptops, TVs are not conducive to a good night’s sleep, so keep all screens out of your bedroom and invest in a good old fashioned alarm clock to wake up. In other words, try turning your bedroom into a sanctuary of relaxation free from the tedium of daily life.

The best thing you never knew existed that will help with this? A heated sleep mask. Huge in Japan and Korea already, they’re only just taking hold elsewhere, and work with a (totally safe) chemical reaction of iron powder and oxygen to create a hot compress that increases circulation around the eyes.

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