When you don’t get enough sleep, it’s hard to hide the telltale signs on your face: dark circles, bags under the eyes, and pale and droopy skin. But did you know that these effects make you look less attractive and even sadder than others who have gotten their “beauty sleep”?
So says a new study published in the journal Sleep by researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
Researchers recruited 10 subjects for their research and photographed their faces on two different occasions – once after eight hours of normal sleep, and once after 31 hours of sleep deprivation and only five hours sleep the night prior. Both photographs were taken at 2:30 p.m. in the laboratory.
Forty other participants then rated the resulting 20 facial photographs, focusing on fatigue, 10 facial appearance cues, and sadness.
The ratings showed that the faces of sleep-deprived individuals were perceived as having more hanging eyelids, redder eyes, more swollen eyes, and darker circles under the eyes. Sleep deprivation also was linked to paler skin, more wrinkles and fine lines, and droopier corners of the mouth. Subjects were also seen as looking sadder when sleep-deprived versus after normal sleep, and sadness was associated with looking tired.
“The skin of subjects who slept poorly had more fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and saggy skin with reduced elasticity.”
The authors note that face perception is one of the most developed visual perception skills from an early age, and it involves a specialized neural system. How we perceive facial appearance can influence our judgments of characteristics such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness and competence.
“Since faces contain a lot of information on which humans base their interactions with each other, how fatigued a person appears may affect how others behave toward them,” said lead study author Tina Sundelin. “
Another recent study commissioned by Estée Lauder found that sleep deprivation resulted in increased signs of skin aging.
Analysis of 60 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 30 and 49 found that the skin of subjects who slept poorly had more fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and saggy skin with reduced elasticity. In addition, they were more likely to be overweight.
By comparison, women who had better quality sleep recovered more easily from skin stressors such as environmental toxins, UV exposure, and disruption of the skin’s moisture barrier. They also rated their skin and facial appearance more highly than those who were sleep-deprived.
The Bottom Line
While the results of these studies may seem like common sense to many of us, it’s great when science can give us clear evidence to support what we think we already know.
To prevent premature aging and to minimize the effects of time showing on your face, getting enough sleep is critical. Most medical professionals recommend that adults get seven to eight hours of quality sleep nightly. Previous sleep deprivation may necessitate even more sleep, and quality of sleep is just as important as quantity.
The bottom line is there are a number of dietary and lifestyle factors that we can control that affect how rapidly we age. In addition to getting enough good-quality sleep, better diet and nutrition, including anti-aging supplements, Omega-3s, and antioxidants, and regular physical activity are critical when it comes to an anti-aging regimen for both men and women.
If you’re having difficulty sleeping, try these tips:
- Stay consistent with your sleep schedule, and try to sleep at the same time every night. Help your body get into a routine so it knows when it’s time to rest.
- Don’t eat too much before bedtime. Being too full or too hungry can make it uncomfortable to sleep.
- Watch caffeine and alcohol consumption – too much of either can disrupt sleep.
- Take a warm bath with lavender or other calming oils to help relax before bed.
- Exercise a few hours before bedtime – not right before. Regular physical activity promotes better sleep.
- Clear your mind of stress. Having too much on your mind will make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If your sleeplessness persists, consult your physician to see if there are any underlying issues that may be affecting your slumber.
Remember, being well rested is an essential step in any skin and beauty regimen, one that will have an immediate effect on your appearance. Best of all, it’s absolutely free – so make sure you get your beauty sleep tonight!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.