When it comes to your skincare routine, getting enough sleep may be the closest thing available to a fountain of youth. Not magic creams or overpromising supplements. Sleep allows your body to fully repair and recover itself, which leads to significant effects on how you look.
There are many ways your skin can be compromised – a poor diet, not drinking enough water, overexposure to sunlight, not exercising, too much sugar, and poor skincare practices. While it may sound like a lack of sleep isn’t as severe as not moisturizing your skin every day, the reality is, it is. Skipping a few hours of sleep to meet deadlines or watch TV seems harmless in the beginning, but it takes a toll on many of your body’s functions over time.
As you get older, the rate at which your skin cells regenerate reduces. This allows any damage to your skin, visible and invisible, to become more obvious signs of aging. Beauty sleep is real. How you sleep and for how long can have a massive impact on how your skin looks.
When you don’t give your body enough time to recharge, it’s going to show in your skin. One of the most obvious ways that sleep deprivation causes skin problems is via the appearance of dark circles. However, there’s more to sleep than banishing puffy eyes. It’s important to understand what lack of sleep is doing to your skin and body to create a beauty routine that will keep your skin youthful and glowing for many years.
Understanding the Science Behind Beauty Sleep
Beauty sleep. We know we need it, but we still manage to skimp on it every day. Getting enough sleep helps boost our productivity levels, improve our ability to manage stress, and elevate our immune system. It also ensures we continue looking our best.
Your skin, hair, and nail cells regenerate during your sleep and the facial muscles that cause lines on your face, relax. Your blood flow increases, and so does the amount of nutrients being delivered to your skin. Giving your body the chance to rest and rejuvenate also allows it to remove toxins from the body, and repair all cells that are required for keeping your skin youthful.
So can sleep be considered the fountain of youth? We think so, so read on to find out why.
The First Three Hours of Sleep
During the first three hours of sleep, your body produces human growth hormone. Commonly associated with steroid use and cheating in the sports world, the human growth hormone is produced naturally in the body in the pituitary gland. It plays a crucial role in growth and development, cell regeneration, and maintaining healthy tissue – including that of the brain, skin, and other vital organs.
Once the human growth hormone is secreted, it remains active in the bloodstream, where it is converted into growth factors in the liver. The most critical growth factor is IGF-1, which promotes growth in each cell of the body. You need growth hormones in the body for better mood, improved hair health, muscle strength, bone density, increased energy, body weight maintenance, and of course, good skin.
As we age, human growth hormone levels begin to decline, more specifically in the 20s for women and in the late 30s for men. Furthermore, poor sleep alters your hypothalamus and pituitary gland function, thereby affecting your growth hormone release time even more. Signs of low human growth hormones include thinning hair, more belly fat, the appearance of wrinkles, and dry skin. Men may also experience weakness, balding, loss of libido, and poor memory as their human growth hormone levels fall.
Getting enough sleep improves levels of human growth hormone in the body and helps individuals improve the elasticity of their skin, as well as their body-fat ratio – two factors that play significant roles in our appearance. According to research published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, human growth hormone also reduces the risk of osteoporosis, boosts the immune system, improves physical and mental performance during sports activities, and also improves overall hair health. Other ways to improve your human growth hormone levels naturally include high-intensity workouts, plenty of vitamin C, and laughing more.
The Next Two Hours
During the next two hours of your sleep, your body releases melatonin. As we all know, melatonin is a hormone responsible for sleep and regulating your circadian rhythm – your sleep/wake cycle. However, did you know that melatonin also acts as an antioxidant that helps protect your skin from free radical damage?
According to an article published in Dermato Endocrinology, solar irradiation, which is exposed to UV light from the sun, is one of the main environmental stressors for your skin. Spending too much time in the sun, especially without SPF, causes free radical damage in your skin and body, resulting in premature aging, including age spots (or sunspots), fine lines, wrinkles, and dry skin. The research suggests that since melatonin acts as an antioxidant, it protects cellular DNA from free radical damage.
However, you may not obtain the skin benefits of melatonin by simply popping a supplement – unless it is to help you go to sleep. This is because your body digests the melatonin in your supplement, preventing the hormone from resurfacing in your skin. Your best bet would be to let your body produce melatonin on its own by getting to bed early and getting at least 7 hours of sleep.
The Last Three Hours
During the last three hours or the active REM sleep stage, your body’s cortisol levels begin to decrease. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and you want its levels to be as low as possible throughout the day and during your sleep. This helps prevent stress and calm your mind and body.
Since cortisol leads to stress, it can have a massive impact on your skin, causing acne, puffiness and other skin changes.
During this period of your sleep, your skin’s temperature also falls to its lowest. This allows muscles to relax and immobilize, thereby offering your skin the deepest repair and recovery during your entire period of rest.
How Does a Lack of Sleep Affect Skin?
If the information above wasn’t enough to make you get into bed early enough to achieve 7-8 hours of shuteye, we’re pretty sure the following ways sleep deprivation is affecting your skin will change your mind.
Develop Dark Circles
Sleep allows your body to reach a state of equilibrium. Since you’re expending less energy during your sleep, your cells use this opportunity to derive this unused energy and channel it towards cell repair and rejuvenation. Not getting enough sleep prevents your cells from regenerating, causing your blood vessels to dilate, resulting in dark circles.
Proper sleep ensures that everything is functioning the way it should, thereby reducing the purple hue under your eyes. If you do find yourself pulling an all-nighter and have to cover your discoloration stat, you should try placing a couple of cold green tea bags on the affected area. Keeping your eye cream in the fridge also helps immensely.
Prone to Premature Aging
According to a study commissioned by Estée Lauder, women participants of ages 30 to 49, who were also poor sleepers, were more prone to developing early signs of aging than women of the same age group who got sufficient sleep every night.
Scientists believe this may be linked to the release of human growth hormone during sleep. Increased human growth hormone release is associated with the fasting state your body enters while you sleep. Contrary to what most people believe, research published in the Journal of Physiology suggests, that human growth hormone is more effective in triggering collagen formation – than preventing loss in muscle mass.
This shows that the human growth hormone naturally produced during your sleep plays a significant part in maintaining your skin’s collagen matrix, and thereby sustaining your skin’s elasticity and youthful appearance. Researchers have found that rats deprived of sleep show skin lesions as early physical indications.
Some evidence also suggests that your skin cells regenerate faster at night. Although skin cell division does take place during the daytime, it reaches its peak at around 2 am. This peak does take place even if you’re up past midnight, but the increase in the release of the human growth hormone doesn’t. This prevents cell rejuvenation from reaching its optimum potential, thus resulting in skin that looks dull, dry, and tired.
Skin Becomes Imbalanced
Sleep is a natural moisturizer for your skin. During your sleep, your skin perspires more, thereby giving it some much-needed hydration to boost its glow and suppleness. However, not getting enough sleep does the complete opposite, making your skin reach an imbalanced state and affecting its natural moisture levels.
Along with poor moisture levels in your skin, lack of sleep also lowers your skin’s natural pH levels, making your skin appear less glowing over time. A drop in pH levels in your skin prevents your skin from producing the moisture it requires, making it appear drier and duller the next day.
This pH imbalance also causes breakouts, unwanted redness, and an uneven complexion. While skincare products that focus on maintaining the slightly acidic level of your skin can help lock in moisture and keep bacteria and other nasties out – skimping on sleep can make your nighttime beauty ritual useless.
Monitoring your sleep, by keeping track of how many hours you get in a journal is an integral part of a solid beauty regimen. Note that you may need more than 8 hours of sleep or less. To determine how much sleep your body needs to function optimally, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier, and add 15 minutes every day until you reach a number (of hours) that’s enough to make you feel and look refreshed throughout the day.
If you have oily skin or are just generally susceptible to uncalled for bouts of pimples, you may be at greater risk of developing acne if you don’t get enough sleep.
Lack of sleep affects the structural integrity and chemical composition of your skin. Poor sleep stimulates the production of more cortisol in the body. High levels of cortisol stunt the production of fibroblasts, which are cells in your connective tissue that produce collagen and other fibers. Cortisol also increases matrix metalloproteinase, an enzyme that increases elastin and collagen breakdown, thereby resulting in acne, acne scars, wrinkling, reduced skin thickness, taut skin, dryness, and reduced production of growth factors.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, which also stimulates – you guessed it, stress. Stress is a known contributor to acne at any age.
Immune-Related Skin Problems Become Worse
Do you have eczema, psoriasis, rashes, or any other skin condition that is driven by your immune system? Not getting enough sleep can make these conditions worse.
Increased inflammation inhibits your body’s ability to regulate your immune system, which doesn’t only make you prone to illnesses, but also frequent flare-ups in your skin conditions.
Psoriasis isn’t just a skin condition – it’s a potent indicator of your inflammation. Many individuals with psoriasis have a high risk of heart attacks, which is a strong reason to maintain low-stress levels and achieve 8 hours of good sleep.
Skin Shows That You’re Stressed
Your skin acts as a natural barrier to keep everything in your body inside and pathogens outside. It’s also a window to what’s going on in your body internally. Therefore, if you’re not sleeping, are stressed, and your body isn’t functioning optimally, your skin isn’t going to hesitate to show it, in the form of dryness, itchy skin, flaking skin, dullness, breakouts, puffiness, and fine lines.
Let’s talk about stress. Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship. Most of us are aware that stress can lead to poor sleep patterns but did you know that lack of sleep can also lead to stress? When you don’t get enough sleep, your cortisol levels soar, your skin collagen deteriorates, and you know the drill – your skin becomes dry, scaly, and dull over time.
A study published in the journal, Inflammation and Allergy Drug Targets, looks at the connection between your brain and skin and how stress can have a significant impact on your skin’s aging process. Researchers found that no proven medical treatment cures or prevents stress-induced skin conditions or aging. Therefore, before you look for the best face cream that will rescue your skin from its issues, consider getting 8 hours of sleep to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place.
Late-Night Drinking Prevents Skin Cell Regeneration
There are four separate stages of sleep. Stages one and two are when you’re somewhere in between being awake and being asleep. Stages three and four are when you entire rapid eye movement, or REM sleep. Cell regeneration takes place when your body enters the REM stage.
However, alcohol is a REM sleep inhibitor. Having as little as two servings of alcohol within 1.5 hours before you go to sleep prevents your body from performing at peak levels the next day. It’s also a surefire way to kick-start common skin issues, such as bags under the eyes, puffiness, a pale complexion, dry skin, and so on.
Flickering Devices Make You Look Tired
In today’s busy lifestyle, denying a good Netflix or Instagram binge before bed is quite a challenge. However, looking at a screen before attempting to go to bed can be detrimental to your skin in the long-term.
Before you consider dimming your screen’s brightness, understand that even doing so will not diminish your exposure to blue daylight spectrum light – the color of the sun. All light-emitting devices, such as your TV, computer, and cell phone emit blue light.
Blue light has an energizing and stimulating effect on your body. This is mainly because your circadian rhythm is located right behind your eyeball and when it reads blue light, it directly affects your melatonin levels. Melatonin is a sleep-regulating hormone that is released in the dark because humans are evolved to sleep in the night and perform their functions in the day.
In general, you should try your best to avoid screens and technology 90 minutes before bedtime. Instead of looking at a screen, try writing in your journal, reading a book, or follow the old-fashioned method of falling asleep – counting sheep.
Susceptible to Weight Gain and Cellulite
Sleep deprivation does not stop with inflammation and dark circles. It also causes weight gain, and later, cellulite, stretch marks, saggy skin, bigger pores, and acne.
Numerous studies show strong links between weight gain and poor sleep, which includes a 2014 research published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, performed by neuroscientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital – a teaching hospital linked to Harvard University. Researchers found that individuals who got 8 hours of sleep gained twice as much fat loss as those who didn’t get as much shuteye. The study also shows the correlation between staying up late, increased hunger levels, and reduced metabolism.
Deep sleep is also required to reduce the effects of cortisol in the body. Furthermore, with growth hormone levels decreasing with age anyway resulting in increased tummy fat, it becomes more important to get enough sleep to negate the negative cycle of weight gain, increased fatigue, stress, and poor skin.
Face Cream Becomes Ineffective
Some face creams and lotions are vulnerable to sunlight, so the best way to get the most out of them is to use them before bed and throughout your sleep. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E remain active in your skin for much longer, when applied at night. These antioxidants aid in collagen production, in the prevention of free radical damage and premature skin aging, and in reducing signs of dehydrated skin – such as a dry, dull complexion.
Can Proper Sleep Reverse Signs of Aging?
It’s no secret that we all age every day. No matter how much water you drink or how many times a week you go for your yoga sessions, time will leave its engraving someday on our faces. However, for most of us, the real quest lies in understanding the difference between normal aging and what may be signs of an underlying issue. Premature aging is not something you should overlook.
Are your sun spots and lines around your mouth just aesthetically irritating – or something beyond just cosmetics? It helps to spot the first signs of premature aging, which includes a significant loss in your glowing complexion, along with dry, less bouncy skin and dark circles. If you’re facing these issues, take heart in knowing that they can be fixed by not over-tiring yourself, getting plenty of sleep, exercising, moisturizing every day, and consuming foods rich in antioxidants.
However, some signs that appear to be signs of aging may indicate something else. Excessive sun damage can develop into skin cancers, even in a person’s early 20s or 30s. Therefore, if your skin is bleeding or is itchy, or if you notice a mole changing in size, it’s important to see a doctor immediately. It also helps to keep track of your skin color. Keep an eye out for the following red flags:
- If your skin appears yellow, it may be indicating an issue with your liver
- A gray tint in your skin may be indicating kidney issues
- Discoloration or a blue tint on your lips may indicate poor oxygenation from your lungs
Furthermore, if you notice weight gain, dry hands, disturbances in your sleep patterns, and frequent fatigue, chances are these are the initial markers of brain shrinkage, caused by smoking, lack of sleep, and a diet rich in fatty, processed foods. To improve your skin and overall health, again, try improving your sleep, adding a multivitamin, consuming natural foods, and avoiding high-sugar foods and alcohol.
How to Get More Beauty Sleep
Your body is like a private corporation, if one system fails, everything will eventually collapse. Therefore, it is critical that you get enough sleep every day to support your body’s functions and cell regeneration.
However, we get it. Getting more sleep is easier said than done. The following are some tips and tricks to elevate your sleep game and get the most out of your beauty sleep every night.
Keep Away from Light
For the longest time, we’ve been thinking that our bedtime rituals are only associated with the quality of our sleep, and taking the time just to relax every night is enough to make a difference.
Although Epsom salt baths, chamomile tea, and essential oils can help us wind down, we have to admit we don’t have enough time for these practices every night. However, there is one nighttime ritual that doesn’t require time or effort, and can make a massive difference to your sleep quality – and that’s light exposure.
Our internal clocks are sensitive to light and dark. Therefore, scrolling through Instagram, watching Netflix, or going through your emails isn’t doing your sleep any favors. The blue light emitted from devices disturbs your circadian rhythm and is known to inhibit melatonin, your sleep hormone.
Try having a set time for your sleep every day, so that you can finish all your nightly activities at least one hour before you enter the bedroom. Make sure your bedroom doesn’t have any electronic devices, especially a TV, which is notorious for keeping folks up in the night. Keep your phone on your dresser, instead of your nightstand so that you have to get up to switch off the alarm in the morning – preventing you from hitting that snooze button multiple times.
Choose the Right Position
Your brain removes metabolic waste during your sleep. This is massive because not only does this discovery help scientists determine why we sleep, but also how certain positions can impact your health. For example, sleeping on your side actually facilitates the brain in clearing out waste and can potentially prevent the accumulation of plaque, typically seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Therefore, sleep doesn’t only help you look better; it also ensures your cognitive health is in check.
Perform High-Intensity Workouts
Exercise-induced growth hormone increases human growth hormone secretion. HIIT workouts and other high-intensity workout styles are incredibly effective in the secretion of human growth hormone during your sleep. As we discussed earlier, healthy production of human growth hormones during your sleep is crucial for proper cell regeneration and skin health.
Exercise also helps reduce stress, and the best part is, it can be done at any time of the day. To get the most out of your stress-busting workout routine, try fitting your workouts when you’re especially feeling stressed, such as between 5 to 7 p.m. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are mood-elevating hormones that help suppress stress. Whether it’s at home or a gym, exercising, especially after work hours doesn’t only help you feel less stressed throughout the rest of your night, it also gives you a healthy level of exhaustion that will put you to sleep on time.
On days when you don’t get the chance to work out, try having a pre-bedtime ritual with a few relaxing yoga poses that will improve your breathing, and calm your mind.
Up Your Vitamin C Intake
Vitamin C isn’t just an antioxidant that boosts collagen levels and skin glow. It also has a strong correlation with human growth hormone secretion. Therefore, increasing your intake of vitamin C, via citrus fruits, berries, and dark leafy greens is an excellent way to naturally increase your human growth hormone secretion during your sleep and improve your overall skin health in the long-term.
Avoid Lying on Your Stomach
A lot of us are guilty of sleeping on our stomachs. However, doing so can cause liquid to pool in your under-eye throughout your sleep, resulting in puffiness that will prevent you from wanting to get up.
To combat this, try wearing a sleep mask that blocks out light and props your head, helping you sleep on your side. This prevents any wrinkling on your skin caused by your face rubbing against the pillow. It also stops fluid from accumulating under your eyes.
Help Your Skin Repair Itself While You Sleep
Sleep is a crucial time for your skin to rejuvenate and repair itself after a long day of impact from environmental stressors. Not getting enough sleep causes dark circles, dryness and it emphasizes the appearance of wrinkles, giving you a more intense tired look. Lack of sleep also increases cortisol production, which triggers inflammation and skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
To make the most out of your downtime, it’s vital that you choose quality multi-tasking products, such as night creams and under-eye creams that will fight dehydration, inflammation, and dullness – while ensuring your skin looks and feels fresh the next day. It helps to do some thorough research and find products with ingredients that address your skin type and skin concerns.
If You Have Insomnia, Try Binaural Beats
Even people with good intentions have nights when they find themselves tossing and turning, possibly due to stress from work or a late-evening latte. However, there is a trick that can help your brain to enter sleep mode without much effort.
Although binaural beats haven’t been studied thoroughly yet, advocates believe listening to them before sleep can help lower anxiety levels. Apps such as Binaural and Brain Wave suggest that their layered tones and beats hit specific brainwave frequencies that help calm the brain and bring it to a more relaxed state.
Timing is Everything
There’s a reason the vexing beep of your 6 a.m. alarm can jolt you up from your sleep. You’re often in the middle of your REM stage at this time, and waking up to a jarring alarm sound can leave you groggy, disoriented, and well, alarmed – all at the same time.
Luckily, we have an app for everything, including menacing alarms. Sleep time and sleep cycle, are a couple of effective apps that use your phone’s accelerometer to sense your movements in bed – waking you up during your lightest sleep stage. But don’t worry, it will wake you within a window of time determined by you.
These apps also analyze your sleep patterns through the night and give you charts that explain your sleep quality.
Skip Your Afternoon Coffee
Lack of sleep gives you more reason to grab a cup of coffee – multiple times throughout the day. It’s a vicious cycle that results in midday crashes and poor productivity levels. Therefore, even though your afternoon latte may feel like a blessing, its effects can continue for hours. Try avoiding caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime to make sure it doesn’t affect your sleep at night.
If you rely on coffee for energy, try adding matcha to your smoothies. Matcha is essentially powdered tea leaves that will give you a steady supply of energy. This will prevent you from hitting that midday crash and more importantly, sleep better in the night, so you wake up feeling refreshed the next day. Here are some alternative ways to stay awake without coffee.
Fresh Sheets are Everything
Invest in high-quality sheets because you’ll be using them for months, and they can have a massive impact on your sleep quality every night. Apart from choosing a high thread count, you should also make sure your sheets are always clean. Ideally, they should be washed every week.
It also helps to build a habit of making your bed (throw pillows and everything) right after you get up. This is because entering a room with a well-made bed, with comfortable linens makes sleep more desirable.
Your bed covers should also have enough room for you to turn and stretch comfortably without tangling. This will keep you from waking up with a sore back or neck.
Another beauty trick is to choose silk pillowcases instead of cotton. Cotton increases friction and creasing, which promotes collagen breakdown. Silk does the complete opposite and is more skin-friendly. Whatever material you choose, be sure to wash your cases often so that you’re not placing your face into a pool of bacteria every night.
Keep Your Room Cool
Your body releases melatonin when it detects lower temperatures. Making sure your room is comfortably cool with proper ventilation can help you achieve quality sleep throughout the night, without having to wake up in the middle because of the room being too hot or too cold.
Don’t Make These Food Mistakes
The following are some common mistakes most people make with food and drink that can tamper with their sleep patterns:
- Big Meals at Night. Try making dinner your lightest meal with adequate amounts of protein and fresh veggies. Avoid spicy, acidic, and oily foods that may trigger heartburn.
- Late Night Snacking. Make sure you have your dinner at least 4 hours before bedtime and avoid having processed snacks after that. If you are hungry, choose something light such as berries or cut carrots.
- Alcohol Before Bed. Although drinking can help you feel relaxed, it can negatively impact your sleep cycle when you’re asleep.
- Sugary Foods. Consuming too many refined carbs and sugar can keep you up at night and prevent you from reaching the deep, rejuvenating stages of your sleep.
Like we mentioned before, keep the TV and computer out of your bedroom, and your phone far away from you. This will help your brain associate your bedroom with just sex and sleep, ensuring you unwind easily in the night.