We have all at some point in time experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed, reduced or broken sleep. Unfortunately, chronic sleep loss can lead to lacklustre skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes, getting your ‘Beauty Sleep’ is not an urban myth! Not surprisingly two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended amount of nightly sleep.
Why You Need Your Beauty Sleep
Sleep has a huge impact on skin health when you sleep your skin gets a chance to recover from the stresses of the day and regenerate. Just like your other organs, the skin is able to relax, entering into a regenerative mode, where the magic happens – damaged or dead skin cells are replaced with new ones. We are constantly exposed to pollution and radiation, UV rays throughout the day, so this ‘downtime’ is incredibly important for your skin.
During sleep, the brain increases the production of molecules called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). These are energy storage molecules that are responsible for powering almost all the biochemical reactions within body cells. These ATP molecules are essential for the restoration and regeneration of skin cells.
When we sleep there is also an increase in blood flow, and collagen and hormone production. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol fall at night, allowing collagen and growth hormone levels to rise, as cortisol normally has an inhibitory effect. Collagen is responsible for the elasticity and strength of your skin.
What happens to your skin while you sleep?
In the first three hours of sleep Your body will start producing the human growth hormone from the pituitary gland, which is necessary for the maintenance of skin health, promoting cell repair and regeneration. Without this hormone release, skin is not repaired from daily damage and induces the aging process.
In the middle two hours of sleep This is when melatonin is increased, the hormone responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake patterns) but also acts as an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from free radicals that cause skin damage.
In the final three hours In the active REM sleep stage, levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) decrease. At this time temperature, your skin drops to its lowest point allowing muscles to relax and become immobile, allowing your skin its deepest recovery of the night.
What happens when you don’t get enough shut eye?
Your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. Excess amounts of cortisol have been shown to break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic resulting in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines more pronounced. Chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of intrinsic aging, diminished skin barrier function and lower self-satisfaction with appearance.
Sleep loss also causes the body to release too little human growth hormone (HGH). HGH promotes growth when we are young, as we age, HGH helps to increase muscle mass, thicken skin, and strengthen bones. HGH – a great healer of the body, which surges at night.
When you get inadequate sleep on a regular basis, your skin becomes increasingly dull, as the skin ages rapidly with lower cell regeneration. In addition, sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol which can cause inflammation further stressing the skin, triggering potential outbreaks of acne and exacerbating existing skin conditionsacne, eczema, and psoriasis.
— Sleep expert Phil Gehrman, PhD.
“It’s during deep sleep – what we call slow-wave sleep, that growth hormone is released, It seems to be part of normal tissue repair – patching the wear and tear of the day.
Lack of adequate sleep can also lead to a reduction in Melanocortin levels, making the skin appear pale and lifeless. Wound and bruise healing slows down and scarring also takes longer to resolve.
How the lack of sleep affects your skin
A recent Swedish study showed redder, more swollen eyes, dark circles, and paler skin after missing a night’s sleep. The same study also found that sleep-deprived people were perceived to look sadder than they did after a good night’s sleep.
A 2023 Research Study notes the link between insufficient sleep and compromised skin health, underscoring the significance of prioritising sleep for a radiant complexion and optimal skin function.
Lack of sleep affects the moisture levels in your skin, decreasing them and also lowering your complexion’s pH levels, which is why your skin looks less youthful and has less of a glow. As your skin’s pH levels drop, they create an imbalance, causing your skin to not be able to produce the moisture it needs, so it makes it look drier. It can also create unnecessary redness, leaving your skin uneven and even triggering breakouts.
Stressing about your lack of sleep? Stress increases glucocorticoid production, which can lead to abnormalities in skin structure and function!
How long should I be sleeping?
Dr. Matthew Walker notes in his book Why We Sleep “Sleep is a powerful elixir of wellness and vitality, dispensed through every conceivable biological pathway.” The recommendation is to allow yourself the opportunity for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
In this blog I have focused on how lack of sleep can affect the health of your skin but sleeping less than six or seven hours a night has serious health consequences:
- Demolishes your immune system
- More than doubling your risk of cancer
- Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease
- Inadequate sleep— even moderate reductions for just one week— disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic
- Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.
- Sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
CONCLUSION: After reading this list it is easy to comprehend that the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span. The recommendation is to allow yourself the opportunity for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Going to bed and waking at the same time each day. For me, the change of routinely getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night has been profound, and I feel my long-term health outcomes are greatly improved because of it.
Until next time..
be human, be kind, be you.
- Book: Walker, Matthew. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams (p. 168). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
- 10 Surprising effects of lack of sleep
- Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance.
- Does poor sleep quality affect skin aging?
- Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, llad196,