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The Importance of Collagen and Sleep

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Q: Why is collagen so important for our skin? What is the best way for me to get collagen?
A: Collagen is one of the biggest-selling anti-aging substances in today’s retail culture. It is in everything from ingestibles such as protein powders and supplements to topically applied creams and generally pretty costly. 

Collagen is the main protein found in connective tissue and skin in the human body. Amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, form a collagen helix in connective tissue. As we age, collagen becomes fragmented and production slows. This, combined with a lessening amount of elastin, causes sagging skin and wrinkles.

As a certified integrative nutritionist, health coach and fitness expert, I always explain to my clients that collagen is a protein; when humans ingest it, it gets broken down in the digestive system into its amino acid components, which are not put back together into collagen in the skin. Collagen applied to the skin does not have the same effects as collagen produced in the skin. You can also choose to eat foods high in protein, amino acids and collagen, such as bone broth, chicken and fish and shellfish. And our bodies regenerate with the production of human growth hormone that is produced in the deep stages of the sleep cycle, so you can improve your skin by making sure you have good sleep habits as well.

Newer research on anti-aging and longevity has identified specific peptides that are precursors to our body’s own production of collagen. Peptides are chains of amino acids that are smaller than proteins but are used to create proteins such as collagen and others and are bioavailable for better skin penetration.

When purchasing products for your skin, be sure to do your research and don’t be shy to go to a skin care professional and ask questions. If you’re looking for skin enhancement, research is showing that the peptides, including GHI Cu or BPC157, yield more significant results, and there are also other formulations on the market that use vitamins and other antioxidants yielding promising results as well.

Q: I’m having an extremely hard time sleeping since the pandemic began. I either can’t fall asleep, I wake up and then can’t get back to sleep, or I wake up very early and can’t get back to sleep.
A: There are many reasons for sleep disruption: environmental conditions such as heat, light, noise; poor eating and ingesting habits that result in too much digestive stimulus or caffeine too close to bedtime; hormonal fluctuations during peri-menopause, causing hot flashes and poor heat regulation; partners snoring or sleep apnea; hypervigilance for children’s safety; pets; busy minds that don’t turn off; stress and anxiety over global conditions; health issues; and more that are seemingly endless. But in my practice right now, there is a reason that occurs very frequently and that I will address here. 

Our bodies have a 24-hour circadian rhythm that regulates many of our operating systems including sleep. Cortisol, a hormone that is responsible for helping us rally for the activities of the day, has a circadian rhythm. It is highest in the morning to aid us in getting up and facing the world; when it is on its correct 24-hour cycle, it’s at its lowest at bedtime as we are going to be at the lowest level of activity as we sleep.

For many people, right now that normal rhythm is disrupted due to stress; cortisol gets reversed and is spiking as we are preparing to go to sleep or during sleep in our stressful dreams. This results in the variety of sleep disruptions mentioned above.

Many women are trying melatonin and magnesium supplements to aid disrupted sleep, but if these aren’t out of balance, they will have no effect on poor sleep. Another common route is to take a prescription sleep medication, but these tend to result in morning grogginess and other side effects, which makes them less than ideal. 

Also, rather than supplementation, some experts suggest turning off your TV and blue light-emitting devices an hour before you go to sleep. These devices can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Other experts suggest taking five to ten minutes before you go to bed to write down all the tasks for the next day to get it off your chest and make your brain less busy before bedtime. And quieting the mind before sleep with personal or guided meditation will also allow the body to relax. A good night’s sleep is one the most restorative things we can engage in to protect our health. Be sure to make it a priority.

By: Judy Torel

Judy Torel, owner of Judy Torel Fitness, is degreed, certified and credentialed in every discipline involved in changing habits that result in body changes. She holds certification through ACSM as an Exercise Specialist, nutrition certification through Precision Nutrition and a master’s degree from UAlbany in counseling psychology with a specialty in addictive behaviors. Judy is also a certified yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance and teaches meditation, breathing and physical yoga practice for stress and anxiety management. Recently, she became a Certified Health Coach through Institute of Integrative Nutrition. As an eight-time Ironman triathlete, she has dedicated her life to sharing the knowledge she has ascertained through her own experiences. Visit or call 518-469-0815 for more information about classes and her studio.