Life is busy. There are plenty of things to keep our days and nights occupied, and often not enough hours in the day to complete our to-do lists, regardless of what is on them. But have you considered the importance of the hours in the night, when your body also has a long to-do list? How do you feel about sleep? What impact does it have on you, internally and externally?
Think about the times of the year when you are traveling and when the holiday season can disrupt your sleep routine. It can be difficult to make sure you get enough sleep. And we all know what that feels like. Sleep deprivation can affect our energy levels and overall mood, but what does sleep deprivation look like? Have you considered the effects that a lack of sleep has on your skin? Unfortunately, those effects can often be seen in the mirror in the morning, the tell-tale signs of tiredness. So, whether you’re up because of the time zone or up because it’s the party season, you may want to schedule in some early nights. It’s not called ‘beauty sleep’ for nothing.
Why a good sleep is so important?
1. Regular sleep hours mean a younger-looking you
Sleep is critically important for good health, resetting our brains and our bodies, particularly the immune system, heart, circulatory system and the skin. And poor sleep is strongly associated with both lacklustre skin and visible signs of premature ageing.
In research carried out in Cleveland Ohio, published in 2015 in the journal, Clinical Experimental Dermatology, the skin of 60 women who had chronic sleep problems was compared to those with an ideal sleep duration of 7 - 9 hours a night. Good sleepers not only had significantly lower skin ageing scores but better recovery after exposure to UV light and a 30% greater barrier recovery.1
2. Skin renews and repairs best during sleep
Our internal 24 hour body clocks are controlled by light and regulated sleep and much more. Skin cells have their own clocks, scheduling DNA repairs for the late afternoon and evening (after our peak UV exposure times). Night time is reserved for increased cell proliferation when this delicate process can proceed without interruption. But Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at the University of Newcastle, who is currently researching molecular markers of skin damage, sleep and appearance, thinks that these repair schedules may not be the full story. He says 'For instance, hormone levels alter with sleep'.
Whilst experts agree the ideal quantity of sleep is between 7 - 9 hours for an adult - no one is yet sure whether quality of sleep (for instance, the amount of deep sleep versus dream sleep) is as important for the skin as it undoubtedly is for the brain. It's worth noting that skin cell turnover time ranges from 2 weeks in a baby to more than 2 months in a woman of 50 plus. This is partly thought to be due to differing amounts of sleep.
3. Sleep helps you eat the right food for skin health
Sleep has an important role in regulating appetite through alterations in hormone levels. If we’re sleep deprived, we’re driven to eat more and worse, to prefer sugar rich foods – yes, we’re talking about the munchies. Sugars from diet bind to skin proteins producing new molecules called glycation end products which damage collagen, making it less elastic. Glycation also alters water balance, making the skin grey and increasing dark circles.
4. Sleep nourished skin is rated more attractive
We very quickly notice if our friends are tired. Fascinating 2013 Swedish research, published in the journal Sleep, showed that individuals could indeed detect signs of fatigue very accurately even from photos of faces shown for only a few seconds2. Sleep and health are so closely linked that there was a survival benefit in being able to spot those who might be ill, that should be avoided. Skin appearance is the key facial cue in this and even in our modern age, facial skin cues of fatigue continue to strongly influence our judgements of health and attractiveness.
Therefore, in summary, the research and the biology are clear. Sleep helps to lower the skin age with better recovery after exposure to UV light and it allows tired skin to repair through increased cell proliferation. It is also important in regulating appetite and internally affects our hormone levels which also have an overall effect on our skin. And outwardly, a lack of sleep can project an image of ourselves as being less healthy. So, in the future, when you wake up and look in the mirror and think about nourishing and protecting your skin, make a note-to-self to remember to build in a good nights’ sleep into your skin care routine, your whole body will thank you for it. Sweet dreams…
This article is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before starting any new regimen or course of conduct.
1 Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015 Jan;40(1):17-22. doi: 10.1111/ced.12455. Epub 2014 Sep 30. Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing? Oyetakin-White P1, Suggs A, Koo B, Matsui MS, Yarosh D, Cooper KD, Baron ED.
2 Sleep. 2013 Sep 1;36(9):1355-60. doi: 10.5665/sleep.2964. Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance, Sundelin T1, Lekander M, Kecklund G, Van Someren EJ, Olsson A, Axelsson J.