Science of Beauty Sleep: How Sleep Affects Your Skin

You’ve probably heard the term “beauty sleep” mentioned before. And, while it may not have seemed like much at the time, you may want to keep the phrase in mind, especially if you want youthful looking skin.

In this article, we take a closer look at the science of beauty sleep. That is, how sleep affects your skin and the way it looks.

How Does Sleep Affect Your Skin?

You have probably heard plenty about needing your beauty sleep and written it off as a saying. But, getting a full night of sleep is restorative. And, in contrast, sleep deprivation is evident on your face (1).

In fact, sleep deprivation drastically changes the way your face looks especially around your eyes, mouth, and in areas of your face that are susceptible to frown lines and crow’s feet.

One Night of Sleep Deprivation

Studies showed that the individuals who were sleep deprived had more signs of aging that we perceive as unattractive. These include red eyes, dark circles, pallor, mouth drooping, hanging eyelids, and more wrinkles (1).

These changes were evident in individuals who got five hours of sleep and then were up for almost thirty hours straight.

While these sleep deprivation conditions may be extreme, this type of sleep loss occurs in individuals who work long night shifts or those who have sleep disorders.

So, if you are consistently experience this type of sleep loss, do your face a favor and get some beauty rest.

After A Week of Sleep Deprivation

A week of sleep deprivation degrades your DNA and harms the blood transcriptome which is very important to bodily processes that modulate inflammatory responses, stress responses, and gene expression (2).

DNA damage can cause your face to age significantly. And, while the main culprit of DNA damage is still the sun, a week or two of sleep loss also causes DNA damage.

This DNA damage greatly impairs its ability to stimulate the processes that keep your skin looking youthful.

In fact, DNA transcriptome that is degraded by a week or two of sleep loss helps control the thickness of the top layer of your skin. And, thinning of the skin occurs when transcriptome is impaired. This leads to increasingly large and deeper wrinkles especially as we age (2).

While catching up on sleep after this deprivation may make you feel better. This DNA damage will show on your skin for a very long time. And, you will need better sleeping habits to see an improvement to your skin (2).

Long Term Habitual/Chronic Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep loss increases the speed of facial aging even in individuals who are in young adulthood. Individuals suffering from poor quality of sleep, about five hours of sleep or less per night, experience rapid facial aging because of several measurable effects sleep loss has on skin (3).

One of the reasons for this is that individuals with poor sleep quality had higher levels of transepidermal water loss from the face than those who slept well. This enhances the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Similarly, sleep loss also hampers the repair and restoration of skin tissue. A day after being exposed to UV light those who did not sleep well did not have as fast of a recovery from sunburn as the individuals who were getting an adequate amount of sleep (3).

This delayed recovery makes the damage the sun does to your skin accumulate which can speed up aging over time. The barrier of protection your skin provides gets wore down and thinned out faster in those who are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation (3).

In fact, the recovery of your skin barrier if you are getting consistently adequate amounts of sleep are 30% higher than those who do not get quality sleep on a regular basis (3).

Thus, these effects of sleep loss on your skin decrease the skin health over time at a faster rate, which is more reason for you to get the rest you deserve.

Sleep and Your Skin: Collagen, Chromosomes and Growth Hormones

There is a lot that goes on within your skin to ensure your body is protected from foreign invaders and maintains a healthy, radiant barrier for most of our lives.

In this section, we take a look at some of the things that keep your skin looking good. And, how lack of sleep affects them.

Collagen

One of the key factors related to your skin’s youthful appearance is the amount of collagen your body produces. Collagen is a type of protein that contributes to skin elasticity and thickness (4). As we age, type one and type three collagen fiber production decreases. This decreased production comes from the decreased protein synthesis that occurs when we must focus more energy on staying alert and functioning properly.

Unfortunately, drastic decreases to collagen protein production with age and poor-quality sleep leads to skin thinning and decreased stretchiness enhancing fine lines and wrinkles.

Growth Hormones

Growth hormone production and secretion is modulated by growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH) and insulin growth factor one (IGF1). And, both decrease with increasing chronological age (5).

Growth hormone decreases with age and biologically speeds up the process of aging. However, supplementation of growth hormone or the enhancement of growth hormone releasing hormone will help your skin sustain a youthful appearance even with the typical growth hormone decrease throughout life.

This can be helpful because growth hormone can enhance muscle deposition, stimulate collagen protein production, and decrease the amount of fat deposition occurring within your body. All of which help you look more youthful longer.

Chromosomes

Your chromosomes are more often referred to as DNA. That’s because each of these thread-like structures consist of your DNA that’s coiled up many times over.

More importantly, these strands are responsible for all your bodily functions and processes, including aging.

If you picture a chromosome in your head, it is shown as an extended X in science books and encodes information vital to function. But, the most important parts for aging are the tips of the X (6). These are the telomeres.

The telomeres on the ends of a chromosome shorten with every division. This decrease in length is responsible for aging especially when the telomeres shorten to where they can no longer divide.

Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep speeds up this process. As a result, you age faster.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Skin and Looks

Wrinkles

As we mentioned earlier, DNA damage can occur, and it is responsible for premature aging especially when telomeres shorten the go through senescence and die (6).

Wrinkles are a natural part of skin aging. But sleep deprivation can restrict the body’s ability to regenerate the essential components of your skin. As such, it can lead to the premature appearance of wrinkles (11).

We discussed earlier that an important skin protein known as collagen helps keep skin youthful. However, collagen protein production can be hampered if you aren’t getting enough sleep.

Just as importantly, elastin and collagen are produced less as we age. And, a large amount of this production occurs at night. So, by cutting sleep short, you can impair the production of these components, which leads to more wrinkles (11).

Skin Complexion

We mentioned that sleep deprivation hampers the recovery time your skin takes to repair itself from damage like sunburns and dryness. But, it can also leave your complexion duller and less radiant compared to someone who is getting adequate sleep (3).

When you are sleep deprived, your face’s barrier thins out more than that of a well-rested individual. This thinning creates an uneven tone.

Not only does your skin look uneven but your face loses moisture when you are tired. Thus, leading to a dull complexion with more pallor than those who are well rested.

To help mitigate these effects, try a tinted moisturizer. It can help minimize the appearance of complexion issues. But ultimately, getting more sleep may be what you need to fix your complexion.

Acne

Your face will break out more when you sleep less. That’s because your body responds to sleep deprivation the same way it responds to stressful events (13, 14).

When your body starts pumping excess epinephrine and cortisol in response to sleep loss it triggers a flight-or-flight response that shifts nutrients and oxygen from your skin to your internal muscles.

This leaves your skin responsible to prevent excessive drying by producing more oil. And while this oil may moisturize your skin, but it builds up on your face and clogs pores leading to acne.

So, if you are looking to spend less on acne treatments, go to bed earlier tonight to prevent unnecessary breakouts.

Eye Bags and Dark Circles Under Your Eyes

Dark circles can appear underneath the eyes for genetic, medical, and environmental reasons. But, when you are sleep deprived these circles increase in size and definition (15).

Infraorbital circles or “bags” are thinner regions under the eyes that show the underlying muscle. Sleep deprivation makes these bags more noticeable because of the water loss and hampered protein production within the skin.

Meanwhile, the body’s Inflammation responses can also be intensified by sleep deprivation, making infraorbital dark circles more apparent in those missing out on a few hours of sleep, especially if the sleep loss is constant (15).

Eczema

The drier and weaker skin barrier present in individuals who are sleep deprived can trigger or exacerbate dermatologic issues like eczema and psoriasis (3).

For individuals who are suffering from excessively dry skin or eczema, sleep deprivation causes a greater amount of transepidermal water loss. Thus, making topical moisturizers even less effective.

This water loss from a weakened skin barrier can make eczema flareups far worse than they normally are.

So, the next time your topical eczema treatment isn’t cutting it, try putting it on and getting at least eight hours of sleep for several days.

Hair

If you are experiencing poor sleep long-term it can even start to negatively impact your hair’s health. The reason for this is that your stress hormones redirect your body’s nutrients (16).

Stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine elicit the response that causes your body to direct all of its nutrients towards internal organs. This happens because stress puts you in a fight-or-flight mode where you’re ready to take on emergencies, critical or even life-threatening situations.

But, reverting all your body’s resources to your essential organs, it prepares you to defend yourself, react quickly or deal with important events.

As a result, all the non-essential parts are left with less nutrients and resources.

Doing so deprives your scalp of essential nutrients. Thus, leading to dryness, flakiness, and overall listlessness of your hair (16).

So, if you find that your hair could use a boost, sleeping better in conjunction with hair oils have shown to revitalize the scalp and restore the nutrients your hair may be missing.

Weight Gain

When you get consistently poor sleep or do not get enough sleep you will experience faster weight gain and harder weight loss than individuals who slept well (10).

There are a variety of factors that cause us to pack on the pounds when we aren’t getting the sleep we need.

One of these is the appetite-suppressing hormone Leptin. Leptin drastically decreases, causing us to eat more than a we normally would.

Additionally, leptin isn’t the only hormone working against your waistline. Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach which stimulates hunger (10).

But, when you’re sleep deprived, it expedites weight gain because of the hormonal shifts it causes that increase your appetite.

Sagging Skin

Sagging skin occurs for the same reason that wrinkles occur when you aren’t getting enough sleep. That is, collagen and elastin protein production is negatively impacted. Thus, making your skin fold and hang (11).

As such, when you start to notice sagging skin, it is important for you to focus on better sleep. Doing so helps to decrease the sagging since this will allow your body more time to produce elastin and collagen as you sleep (12).

Sleeping the right amount will help your face sag less, especially if you make other lifestyle changes like using sunscreen and moisturizers to help protect and tone your face.

Ups Your Stress Hormones

Sleep deprivation makes your more irritable. And, this is partially due to the increase in circulating stress hormones that flood your body when you don’t get enough rest (9).

Catecholamines are part of the hormone class that makes up stress responses. And, when you get less rest, your catecholamine levels for epinephrine and norepinephrine rise.

Similarly, lack of sleep also causes your body to release more cortisol. This increases the amount of stress hormones in your system when you are tired. Thus, leaving your skin looking oily and broken out. Plus, they also increase the amount of fine lines and wrinkles around your mouth and between your eyebrows (9).

Explain Why Your Skin is More Primed for Treatments (Moisturizers, Creams, etc.) Right Before Bedtime

If you have wandered down the beauty aisle in the past you’ve probably passed by shelves of daytime treatments, night time treatments, and spot treatments.

While these items may seem enticingly helpful for youthful looking skin, your face is likely to be more compatible with anti-aging, acnes, and other products at night (7).

However, it’s important to note that certain acne and anti-aging treatments will be rendered ineffective by indirect and direct sunlight. As such, they’re far more useful being applied to skin at night.

Not only are some treatments sensitive to sun but retinoid treatments and moisturizers increase collagen protein synthesis, this takes place faster at night because your body only has to focus on sleeping, breathing, and a low level of digestion (7).

Why Your Skin Needs Rehydration (First Thing) In The Morning

Our skin naturally dries out as we age. Unfortunately for us ladies, this effect is even more prominent in women. And, your face gets dehydrated even faster overnight.

Overnight, we stop taking in water. And, if you aren’t getting your recommended eight cups of water daily then your skin gets drier overnight (8).

Additionally, we often tend to crank down the air conditioning at night to help us sleep better. This increase of cool, dry air does a number on your skin. As such, when you wake up in the morning and use cleanser you further dry your face.

Fortunately, you can rehydrate it with your morning moisturizer, a hyaluronic acid one preferably, will help your skin get a moisture and age-defying boost (8).

Sources

  1. academic.oup.com/sleep/article/36/9/1355/2453883
  2. pnas.org/content/110/12/E1132#sec-9
  3. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25266053
  4. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1606623/
  5. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682398/
  6. learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/basics/telomeres/
  7. health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/moisturizing/tips/moisturize-face-at-night.htm
  8. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4038996/
  9. press.endocrine.org/doi/10.1210/jc.2014-2566
  10. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2010.00903.x
  11. scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-skin-wrinkle-wit/
  12. asds.net/_PublicResources.aspx?id=300&terms=sleep
  13. dennisgrossmd.com/
  14. teenvogue.com/story/how-not-sleeping-affects-health-and-appearence
  15. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1524-4725.2009.01213.x
  16. europepmc.org/abstract/med/12715094