A study looking at the impact of sleep deprivation on the skin has found that a lack of sleep can affect the skin’s ability to cope with external stressors.
The skin displays signs of whether we are getting enough sleep. However, it is possible for us to create a better routine and look after our skin from both the inside and out.
Creating a routine before going to bed can be hugely beneficial in improving the quality of sleep, as well as the state of mind and health.
When you don’t get an adequate amount of sleep each night, it has an impact on your skin that goes deeper than purely aesthetic levels.
A 2015 study has indicated that chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of intrinsic ageing and also diminished skin barrier function.[i]
The study, which was a first-of-its-kind clinical trial, is the first to confirm the effects of poor sleep quality in human skin function and the visible signs of ageing. It demonstrated the importance of sleep for the growth and renewal of multiple physiological systems, noting significant differences between the people observed in the study that had good quality sleep and those who had poor quality sleep.
Although the study found no significant differences between the groups regarding extrinsic ageing, which is attributed to things such as sun exposure, it showed increased signs of skin ageing and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors in those with poor quality sleep. Those who had good quality sleep recovered more efficiently from stressors to the skin.
Getting an adequate amount of sleep allows the skin to recover and repair
The quality of sleep a person gets affects their skin because the human body repairs itself during deep sleep. If a person is not getting enough sleep, or even if it’s just not good quality sleep, their body won’t be able to repair as effectively as it would if they were getting the amount of rest they actually need overnight.
During deep sleep, blood flow to the skin is improved because of a drop in body temperature and the skins cells make new collagen while the body has a surge of growth hormones.
One of the reasons deep sleep is often referred to as ‘beauty sleep’ is because the growth hormone helps to repair and rebuild body tissues and the collagen helps to make skin plumper. This is most effective when we give our body the time it needs overnight to recover and repair. However, many people do not get as much sleep as their body needs.
How to know if you are getting enough sleep
As sleeping is evidently a vital part of recovery, Anandi, The Sleep Guru[i] (thesleepguru.co.uk), has given her professional advice on how it affects a person’s skin and what they can do to improve their quality of sleep.
Anandi’s expertise in sleep has led her to become a well-respected practitioner who uses her extensive knowledge to educate people on the process of overcoming insomnia with an Ayurveda and yogic lifestyle.
The official sleep expert for Neom Organics and Healing Holidays, Anandi was interviewed for this article to find out her professional opinion on how sleep affects the skin:
We all know sleep is a vital part of recovery, but what impact does it have on a person’s skin (looking at both when you get an adequate amount of sleep and not enough sleep)?
Anandi: “When you get adequate sleep, that means you are getting REM and non-REM sleep. REM sleep helps your brain process everything that happened during the day and refreshes your mind. Non-REM is the physical rejuvenation. Physical rejuvenation is the physical bones, cells etc, but also your skin.
Are there any clear signs for the average person that they are not getting enough sleep?
Anandi: “If you don’t feel refreshed in the morning, then you’re not getting enough sleep. If your eyes feel tired and the finer lines are more apparent, you’ll probably be tired. A foggy head, inability to concentrate and highly charged emotions are all signs of lack of sleep. If you tap the snooze button continuously, you need more sleep!”
Is there any way someone could tell if they were actually getting enough sleep?
Anandi: “If your skin looks good, the eyes are clear and you’re feeling energetic and creative, you’re probably getting enough sleep.”
How much sleep is recommended for the average person?
Anandi: “I recommend minimum 6.5hrs, better at least 7hrs.”
What are your top tips for getting more sleep for someone who jumps into bed at the end of a busy day and just fits in as much sleep as their schedule will permit (usually meaning very little)?
Anandi: “I say it’s a decision to prioritise health and lifestyle choice. It’s well documented that tiredness from lack of sleep will affect your health, your ability to be productive and creative. If you jump into bed without any wind-down time, you will probably not sleep well at all. It’s fundamental to turn technology off by at least 9 pm so you have a couple of hours to relax before bed.
“I know people are busy but, we have to take responsibility for our health.”
Do daytime naps make any difference (for those who have time to nap during the day)?
Anandi: “It’s important to get into the rhythm of nature and sleep when the sun goes down and rise when the sun comes up. However, restorative naps are very useful. I recommend a practice called Savasana for 30 minutes. It will completely refresh your mind, body, and spirit. I have a breath practice ‘Guide to the Breath’ with a guided Savasana on it.[ii]”
Is it worth creating a routine for before a person goes to bed to unwind? Does that have any impact on the quality of sleep they will get?
Anandi: “Absolutely, the brain waves need to slow down in order to sleep. When you are active, your brain waves are Beta, Alpha are relaxed, Theta are dream sleep and Delta are deep sleep. You simply cannot sleep if your brain waves are Beta. Relaxing before bedtime with some meditation or breathing will help the process of serotonin production and quietening down of the mind.”
For someone who is unable to change their schedule and has no choice but to get very little sleep, is there anything they could do to help look after their skin?
Anandi: “I wish I could say that you could compensate for lack of sleep, but the skin really does tell the story. However, lack of sleep tends to dry the skin out or make it erupt, so good products are of course essential.”
Is it possible to undo negative impacts on the skin caused by lack of sleep?
Anandi: “Going on retreat, eating healthily, not drinking alcohol and completely relaxing will have a huge impact. That, together with wonderful skin products [is] the perfect combination.”
What impact does the quality of your sleep have on your skin? For example, if a person is getting plenty of sleep but it is not of good quality.
Anandi: “If you are sleeping very lightly and constantly waking up, you may not be getting the deep restorative sleep you need, so you’ll feel tired and look awful in the morning!”
What are your top tips for looking after your skin with regards to sleep?
Anandi: “I believe that good skin care is so important, I always used good products since my teens. (…) Having a good cleansing routine and wonderful nourishing products will help enormously.”
Learn to prioritise sleep
Sleep often comes last on the list of priorities for many people, yet getting an adequate amount of sleep is vital for the body to repair and recover and to ensure a person is energised for the upcoming day. As the 2015 study found, sleep also affects the barrier function of a person’s skin providing defence against external stressors.
This means that the skin’s ability to defend itself from free radicals, such as the sun’s rays and pollution in the environment, is not as effective when someone is not getting sufficient rest. This shows that a lack of sleep will, therefore, cause a negative impact beyond just the appearance of fine lines and dark circles.
The amount of sleep each person requires is dependent on their own bodies, but the standard recommendation guidelines state adults should get between 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night.[iii]
Evidence also suggests it is important to get (as much as possible) into the rhythm of nature, therefore sleeping when the sun goes down and rising when the sun comes up.[iv]
Creating a bedtime routine will ease the mind and body making it ready for sleep
Due to the 24/7 culture most people now live in, technology constantly surrounds them, but experts advise taking time to switch off from it all before going to bed.
Experts also suggest that the moisturiser to choose before bed should be creamier than one they would wear during the day; this is to assist with the repair of their skin while their body rests and rejuvenates.
Antioxidants help to fight free radicals, so a luxurious antioxidant-rich night cream, such as Enrich – Antioxidant Night Cream by griffin+row, could be used to provide a person’s skin with extra nourishment to rebalance dryness and regain natural radiance.
Next steps to take care of the skin from the inside out
If you are struggling to find time in your current routine to get more sleep, try making an effort to ensure that the sleep you do manage to get is good quality sleep.
Setting aside some time in the evening for meditation or deep breathing for a few minutes before bed will help to calm the mind and prepare you for sleep.
For guidance on meditation for beginners, this short video by meditation expert, Deepak Chopra, contains the basics[v]:
Findings from a study by the University of California also suggest that having an out of sync circadian rhythm may actually contribute to accelerated skin ageing. Therefore, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day could assist the body’s intrinsic day-night cycles which protect and nurture stem cell differentiation.[vi] It is recommended that people try to adjust the time they go to bed so that it is the same every night, and also aim to wake up at the same time each morning.
It is also of huge importance for a person to look after their skin by keeping it hydrated. Drinking plenty of water during the day will help with this, and when combined with good sleep it could result in the prevention of puffy eyes and dark circles.
Using good quality skin care products at night can also help to reduce dry skin. Fine lines can often appear more visible on dry skin, so on the surface, it is also important to ensure the skin is moisturised.[vii]
These are some simple steps a person can take to look after their skin from both the inside and out. By making just a few small changes to your evening routine and ensuring you get a few more hours sleep every night, your skin will begin to show some improvement within a few weeks.
Sources and references
[i]The Sleep Guru http://www.thesleepguru.co.uk/
[ii]The Sleep Guru http://www.thesleepguru.co.uk/work-with-me/guidetothebreath/”
[iii] Author unknown. ‘How much sleep do we really need?’ Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
[iv] LeGates, T.A; Fernandez, D.C and Hattar, S. (2014). Light as a central modulator of circadian rhythms, sleep and affect. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v15/n7/full/nrn3743.html
[vi]Original journal reference: Chiara Stringari, Hong Wang, Mikhail Geyfman, Viera Crosignani, Vivek Kumar, Joseph S. Takahashi, Bogi Andersen, Enrico Gratton. In Vivo Single-Cell Detection of Metabolic Oscillations in Stem Cells. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150106154607.htm. Cell Reports, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.12.007
[vii] Jacob, Stephanie. ‘The truth about beauty sleep’. Web MD (online). Available at: http://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/beauty-sleep#1
Original journal reference: F. Sporl, S. Korge, K. Jurchott, M. Wunderskirchner, K. Schellenberg, S. Heins, A. Specht, C. Stoll, R. Klemz, B. Maier, H. Wenck, A. Schrader, D. Kunz, T. Blatt, A. Kramer. Kruppel-like factor 9 is a circadian transcription factor in human epidermis that controls proliferation of keratinocytes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; 109 (27): 10903 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1118641109 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120719103608.htm.