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How To Sleep Like A Koala

Man or marsupial, we all need our beauty sleep. So why not do it well?

issue eight : animal instincts

By Khandiz Joni

Ahh, sleep. That wonderful, restorative time that we look forward to at the end of a long day. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer of us are actually getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep, like the depths of the ocean, are two things in nature that scientists still haven’t quite managed to fully explore – despite both of them part of our evolutionary makeup. What they do know, however, is that sleep is essential for our brains to function efficiently. It is directly linked to our cognitive abilities and lack of sleep can affect our speech, reasoning and ability to think quickly.

Let’s not forget the role it plays for our beauty requirement. This is, after all, a beauty platform – but we will get to that a little later – so keep reading.

If you – like me – find yourself in the northern hemisphere at this moment in time, then you will have noticed that days have become considerably shorter – the winter solstice is only days away. To be honest, I love this time of year. I love the idea of cosying up and slowing down. It’s like human *hibernation time alla bears and endotherms, where we just eat and sleep more. Dreamy!

*Even though hibernation in the animal kingdom has nothing to do with “catching up” on sleep and everything to do with metabolic rates, it is Mother Nature’s ingenious solution to food shortages in the winter months.

At the rate we are going as a species, we may need to figure out how we are going to get our bodies to reserve fat supplies in the ‘leaner’ months. Topor classes would replace the West’s beloved “hot yoga” classes… I guess that’s one way you could limit your carbon footprint.

I get that we can’t really store up sleep hours that can be “spent” later. We do, however, build up a sleep debt when we don’t get enough sleep. This means that we start owing our bodies sleep for not getting enough of it, regularly. An hour or two every now and then is okay because we catch that up pretty quickly, but more than that and you’re putting yourself (and others) at risk. This recovery time that we call sleep is designed to break down the chemical adenosine, which builds up in our bloodstream in our waking hours, repairs cells and muscle tissue and restores our growth hormones that aid the production of collagen – imperative for youthful-looking skin. This debt can have very real ramifications, both financially and for our health. Just like all debts, this one eventually has to be paid back… in slow and steady instalments. The good news? It turns out that regular afternoon naps are fair game, which is great news as I am a sucker for a daytime snooze.

The Science of Sleep

The story goes that we need 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. This is a very old and dated story. In reality, the amount of sleep we need changes throughout our lives and varies from person to person. The National Sleep Foundation (of America) conducted a two-year global study (2015), to examine how much sleep us humans really need. The conclusion?

“Sufficient sleep duration requirements vary across the lifespan and from person to person. The recommendations reported here represent guidelines for healthy individuals and those not suffering from a sleep disorder. Sleep durations outside the recommended range may be appropriate, but deviating far from the normal range is rare. Individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and well-being.”

Beauty Sleep in the animal kingdom

The definition of sleep in non-human animals “refers to a behavioural and physiological state characterised by altered consciousness, reduced responsiveness to external stimuli, and homeostatic regulation” (Wikipedia). So while there may be some differences in our sleeping patterns – some animals don’t experience REM sleep, others are nocturnal and some are able to sleep in 5 minute bursts. Sharks and dolphins are even able to switch off one side of their brain while the other side remains active to keep them constantly moving forward (and we thought we were the greatest species on earth! Ha!)

In reality, sleep is something we have in common with pretty much ever furry, slithering, jumping, creeping, crawling and feathered friend in the animal kingdom. With the exception a few brainless (basal) species, there are no animals that are known to us, that don’t need to:

  • Sleep at all
  • Do not need recovery sleep after staying awake longer than usual
  • Suffer no serious consequences as a result of lack of sleep

There is evidence that animals in captivity sleep longer than their brothers and sisters in the wild. In 2008, a group of scientists wrote a paper on how slow-moving sloths (brown-throated, three-toed sloths) sleep for up to 16 hours in captivity and less than 10 hours in the wild. This has been seen with other animals in captivity too.

So how much time do other animals need in order to thrive and flourish (if man wasn’t destroying their homes and eco-systems or holding them hostage)?

Go ahead and click on the pictures to find out!

Source: BBC Science


Good quality sleep doesn’t just have a positive impact on our minds, it impacts our bodies too. Turns out it’s not just a fairytale after all. Our skin, hair and nails all start shining a little brighter when we sleep.

So, what are the beauty sleep basics? Well, you’ve heard most of them before, but you can be forgiven for not implementing them because tired minds don’t retain as much information… so here they are again:

Ban the blue light

According to Harvard Medical School, amongst others, exposure to blue light – from screens and led light sources – can suppress melatonin production levels by twice as long as green light waves. We need melatonin to regulate circadian rhythms (sleep cycles), and this blue light can shift our rhythms by three hours. It’s in the early stages of sleep that our bodies work the hardest on repairing our bodies… hence, this is when we should be getting our “beauty sleep.” Red light is the best to have on before bed… provided of course your partner doesn’t keep you up all night.

Cool it on the caffeine

While caffeine does have its uses; from helping us wake up in the morning, and its skin-boosting benefits, too much of it ingested too late in the day can affect our sleep, and, as we now know, good quality sleep is imperative for a whole host of reasons. Caffeine’s effects can last for 5-6 hours in the body. Try switching to herbal tea from the early afternoon. Not only will it help you fall asleep easier, but many herbals teas also contain antioxidants, which are very important for healthy bodies and do wonders for the skin. I really like Pukka’s teas – not only because they taste delicious, but because they are 1% for the Planet, Soil Association and B Corp certified, which means they are considering more than just us humans. While you’re at it… cool it on the alcohol, nicotine and other stimulants if you’re after any kind of quality sleep!

Hike Up the Hygiene

Who doesn’t love the smell (and feeling) of fresh sheets? We should be washing our sheets on a weekly basis to ensure we aren’t sleeping in a host of grossness. When you’re next thinking of upgrading your bedding, consider Ettitude’s bamboo lycocell bedding. It’s naturally hypoallergenic, antimicrobial and insanely soft. Not to mention it requires substantially less water to produce than cotton. A warm to hot shower at night-time not only washes the physical dirt from our bodies before we climb into bed, it can also metaphorically wash away the stresses of the day. Take a cue from the animal kingdom and sleep in a jungle; in the 1980s NASA identified 10 plant species that were excellent air purifiers. It turns out that indoor air can be even more polluted than the air outside! Check out Patch.com for your bedroom jungle essentials.

Mend the Mind

Clearing our minds from the stresses of the day not only helps with anxiety, but growing scientific evidence suggests that meditation can help us sleep better too. If you, like me, aren’t practised in the art of slowing your mind down, there are apps and tutorials a-plenty that can take you on a guided journey into La La Land. While using an app sounds counter-intuitive after having been told that we should avoid blue-light and wifi waves before bed – think of it as a means to an end. After a few days, weeks or months – depending on your speed of learning how to meditate – you will be able to use the meditation techniques without any electronic equipment. I like the Headspace App because the meditations, while rooted in ancient history, continue to focus on the scientific benefits of meditation.

Pamper Party Time

If you think about it, night time is the perfect time to pamper your skin with nourishing, restorative skincare. The products we should be using on our skin while we sleep are designed to repair and replenish our skin, just as sleep does. They are often heavier and richer in texture, as opposed to day creams which are lighter and designed to protect our skin from external elements. Night creams like Twelve Beauty’s Nutritive Repair Emulsion and Neal’s Yard Remedies Vitamin E & Avocado Night Cream are two of my favourites because they contain only the safest ingredients but are still filled with their life-force.

Saviour the scent

Natural scents and aromatherapy can have a huge impact on our quality of sleep. Certain scents are calming and grounding. They help settle the mind and relieve stress. According to Sleep.org, jasmine, lavender, valerian and vanilla are the scents that are the most beneficial to sleep. Eye-pillows that contain lavender are a great way to calm the mind, soothe the eyes and block out the light all in one fowl swoop (I know the term is fell swoop, but this is our Animal Instincts issue, so I’m rolling with it, okay?). Can’t get your hands on Ettitdue’s Bamboo Lycocell & Lavender Eye Mask, then definitely give an untainted pillow spray a try. REN’s & Now to Sleep Pillow Spray unique blend of essential oils helps to with natural sleep balance or if you want something extra luxurious for your sleep routine try De Mamiel’s Settle and Sooth from their Sleep Series.

And there you have it my beauties, some top tips for a glorious nights sleep that ensure you wake up looking cute af… just like this sleepy koala.


untainted |ˌənˈtān(t)əd| adjective
not contaminated, polluted, or tainted: the paper was untainted by age.

UNTAINTED is a directional beauty platform, pushing the boundaries of clean, sustainable beauty. We are inspired and motivated by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi.

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