Does Sleep (or Lack of Sleep) Affect Skin Health and Appearance?

Written by Quynh-Giao Sartor, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on May 4, 2023 No Comments

sleeping woman

Sleep is an important part of our physical, emotional, and mental health. It is a time when our bodies and minds recover from the day and prepare for what lies ahead. Good sleep is associated with the renewal of tissues, boosting of our immune systems, and restoration of our wound healing processes. Mood and cognitive function are also affected by how well we sleep. Poor quality or quantity of sleep is known to heighten the risk of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, dementia, obesity, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Sleep also has a huge impact on the skin. As the saying goes, “Get your beauty rest;” research has and continues to show that good sleep does equate to better appearing skin.

Beauty Sleep Can Boost Skin Health & Appearance

During sleep, the body is restoring proteins such as collagen and elastin that repair and strengthen the skin. Collagen is found in abundance in the human body, and the fibers provide an underlying structure for connective tissues, such as tendons, skin, bones, cartilage, and muscles. Elastin is another protein in the body that benefits skin by giving it resilience and strength. Good quality sleep allows the body more time to produce these two key proteins at healthy levels. Sleep also improves the healing processes of the skin and blood flow to the face, optimizing delivery of nutrients. When well rested, several benefits become evident on the skin, including fewer wrinkles, brightened complexion, and reduced puffiness or dark circles around the eyes. Conversely, consistent sleep deprivation can accelerate aging on the skin, including droopy skin.

Optimal Sleep for Skin Health: How Much Sleep is Enough?

The amount of sleep one needs changes over one’s lifetime. Ideally, adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Consistent nights without adequate sleep can lead to a cumulative effect equivalent to losing one to several days without sleep.

Skin Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Visible signs of sleep deprivation on the skin include changes around the eye area: swelling, puffiness, dark circles, or droopy eyelids. Other changes of not enough sleep are pale or pallid skin, drooping at the corners of the mouth, and accentuated fine lines and wrinkles.

Stress Hormones and Skin

When performing under too little sleep, the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. Cortisol leads to several acute physiologic changes in the body, including increased heart rate, momentarily increased energy levels (due to released glucose into the bloodstream), and increased vigilance and attention span. Long term elevated cortisol levels cause increased oil production of the skin, which can predispose one to acne and congested pores, and increased inflammation, which can worsen chronic skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis.  High cortisol levels have also been linked to wrinkle formation, dryness, dull complexion, and skin sagging.

Tired People Look and Feel Less Attractive

A 2017 study published in the National Library of Medicine demonstrates the effects of sleep deprivation and appearance. A lack of sleep was noted to change one’s appearance as well as one’s mood and performance. As result, participants who were deprived of sleep for two days were deemed by observers to be less healthy and attractive than participants who had the proper amount of sleep.

Want Better Skin? Try These Sleep Tips

Several techniques can be helpful to improve the quality of one’s sleep. A healthy diet and active lifestyle prepare the body for a restful night. Another tip is to create a routine before bedtime to help wind down, such as watching relaxing videos at bedtime, avoiding any LED screens (including one’s mobile devices) for 1 hour before bedtime, making the bedroom a sanctuary of rest and relaxation, etc. Meditation is an excellent way to prepare the mind and body for sleep. Finally, if opting for a bedtime snack, it is best to choose something healthy that is high in protein and fiber.

Quynh-Giao Sartor, MD

Quynh-Giao (QG) Sartor, MD is a Board Certified Dermatologist who obtained a Medical Doctorate and completed her internal medicine internship and dermatology residency at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston. Dr. Sartor’s professional expertise includes medical dermatology as well as in-office cosmetic and surgical procedures. Dr. Sartor is passionate about connecting with patients, practicing open communication, and customizing a personalized plan for her patients.

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