The Science Behind Beauty Sleep

This post was originally published on Hey Aprill.

We’ve heard our moms say it. Our friends say it. We’ve probably even said it ourselves before a first date or some fancy event: “I need to get my beauty sleep.”

Where did the assumption that sleep can make you more beautiful come from, though?

Did this theory just infiltrate our minds when Disney created an entire blockbuster movie driven by the concept — a princess called “Sleeping Beauty” whom little girls would look up to for decades? Or is there actually science behind getting your beauty sleep?

Turns out, there is.

Diet, exercise, hormones, and genetics all play a role in the clarity of our skin. However, research shows our skin does the most recovering while we’re asleep.

But before you assume setting a bedtime and sticking to it will make you wake up more beautiful, it’s important to understand that sleep is only one factor that impacts skin quality.

3 Ways Beauty Sleep (or lack thereof) Impacts Your Skin

Sleep improves skin barrier function

Our skin’s primary role is to act as a barrier that keeps pollution and toxins out of our bodies. When we continually get too little sleep, the result is decreased skin barrier (the outermost layer of our skin) function. The better we care for our skin, the better it can perform that role as a protective barrier.

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Credit: Unsplash via Getty Images

All this means is people with poor sleep quality may miss out on some of the restorative benefits good sleepers enjoy. Poor skin barrier function leads to dry skin, which can cause itching, irritation, and, in some cases, eczema.

Lack of Sleep Can Accelerate Skin Aging

Skin barrier function is also directly correlated to skin aging. A decrease in skin barrier function caused by lack of sleep can accelerate skin aging.

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Lack of sleep slows healing from sun damage

Inadequate sleep slows healing from sun damage. This isn’t surprising, knowing sleep is the body’s time to rest and repair.

Like other systems in the body, the skin is also an organ that has to rejuvenate, repair, and replenish— and this takes place during sleep.

Myths About Beauty Sleep— Let’s debunk a couple.

Where there are facts, you can always find myths nearby. When it comes to beauty sleep, there are lots of myths floating around. We want to debunk two in particular.

Myth 1 – Dark Under Eye Circles are Caused Entirely by Lack of Sleep

At some time in your life you have probably heard the bags under your eyes you fight to cover with concealer every morning are a direct result of lack of sleep. Although that is not an unreasonable assumption to make, there is no scientific data to back that claim.

Undereye circles are most likely caused by a combination of factors, such as allergies, genetics, and possibly a lack of sleep.

Myth 2 – More Sleep = Less Breakouts

If only this were true! Heck, most of us would probably go into hibernation. While it would be nice to say getting more sleep would drastically improve the amount of breakouts we see, there are many other factors playing a role in skin quality – such as genetics, skincare routine and diet.

Sleep is only a small piece of overall skin health.

3 Ways to Improve Your Skin

There may be no playbook for waking up flawless, but there are some things you can do to get one step closer to healthier skin:

Sleep your way to better skin

Although sleep won’t solve all your skin problems, it plays a critical role in skin repair and restoration. If you aren’t getting adequate sleep at night, take a look at your sleeping environment.

Is your mattress ten years too old? It might be time for an upgrade. Maybe you are drinking caffeine too late in the day.

Assess your sleep hygiene. If you struggle with lack of sleep regularly, you may want to talk to your primary care physician about potential solutions.

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Don’t sleep in your makeup

Sleeping in your makeup can be easily avoided. We’ve all had nights where we accidentally crash on the couch with our mascara still on, but most nights, we live by the rule: take that makeup off.

You absolutely do not want to make sleeping in your makeup a habit. It is a major culprit in clogged pores and breakouts. If you are prone to dozing off with a full face of makeup on, try keeping micellar cleansing wipes on your bedside table for convenience.

Cleanse and moisturize before bed

Cleansing your face first thing in the morning and right before bed is important for everyone, even those who don’t wear makeup. Our skin encounters many external elements throughout the day (think dirt, pollution, weather, and then some). We cleanse for basic hygiene.

Moisturizing cleansers are often recommended because they cleanse without drying your skin out or stripping your skin of the lipids you need. This type of cleanser tends to be more gentle.

Don’t just take care of your skin to improve your looks. Take care of your skin because it’s the organ whose primary job is to protect us! For some of us, that starts in bed.

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