Column by Jackie Silver What if you could look younger and prettier for free? You can! It’s called beauty sleep for a reason. Lack of sleep can definitely show on our faces, manifesting itself as a lackluster complexion, dark under-eye circles and bags, and wrinkles. Experts say that our hormones “tune up” when we’re sleeping and guess what? Those hormones help to increase collagen, you know, that stuff that makes your skin look “plump and juicy.” Not only that, but our immune systems also “tune up” while we’re sleeping, adding natural killer cells to fight off disease. Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is what the sleep experts recommend. If you have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, look into Melatonin, a hormone our bodies made naturally (available at your local health food store.) Some health care practitioners recommend doses as large as 5 mg, but Dr. Rubin Naiman, author, teacher and sleep expert, told me personally that “less is more” when it comes to Melatonin. I take less than 1 mg. Check with your doctor before using it – children and pregnant women should not use Melatonin unless a doctor advises it. Also, take it JUST before you’re ready to go to sleep and “do not operate heavy machinery.” Here are some Aging Backwards tips for getting the best beauty sleep: • Keep your room dark – light tells the brain that it’s not yet night time and we shouldn’t be tired. This causes us to stay more alert and awake at a time when we should be feeling tired and ready for sleep. Whatever you do, don’t ever open the refrigerator in the middle of the night and expose yourself to that bright light! That light ceases your body’s production of the hormone melatonin, which studies show guards the nervous system against degenerative diseases – such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke – and could even prevent migraines. • Keep your room cold – according to the National Sleep Foundation, temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will disrupt sleep in most cases, but even sleep researchers fail to agree on the ideal temperature for sleep. The point at which sleep is interrupted due to temperature or climate conditions varies from person to person and can be affected by bed clothes and bedding materials selected by the sleeper. A room that’s too hot can also be disruptive. In fact, research suggests that a hot sleeping environment leads to more wake time and lighter sleep at night. • Try ear plugs – studies show that nighttime noise can raise your blood pressure while you’re sleeping, even if you’re unaware of it. So, it you live in a big city with sirens blaring or airplanes landing at all hours, try sleeping with ear plugs. You can find them at almost every retail pharmacy or big box store on earth and they’re a ridiculously affordable way to improve your sleep. Still awake? Read these 6 sleepless stats. Jackie Silver is Aging Backwards and she shares her secrets, tips and shortcuts in her book, Aging Backwards: Secrets to Staying Young, on her website agingbackwards.com, on TV, on radio, in print and in person. She is a frequent television news guest, one half of The Ageless Sisters radio show, a columnist with The Tampa Tribune and contributor to numerous websites. In addition, she is the National Anti-Aging Beauty Examiner, New York Beauty Products Examiner and NY Charity Examiner for Examiner.com. Silver is a New York City based speaker and coach and is sought-after as an anti-aging and beauty expert by the media.