During sleep, the body undergoes regeneration and repair processes, including the skin. How we sleep and the quality of our nightly rest can either promote or harm our skin health. Learn what happens to your skin overnight and tips to improve its appearance after a good night’s rest.
On today's schedule:
Beauty sleep: the role of sleep in healthy skin
Truth behind tired skin: risks from sleep deprivation
Reset, refresh, repeat: tips for preventing skin damage
Say goodbye to skin fatigue: quick morning fixes
The role of sleep in maintaining skin health
Sleep is a vital physiological component to reset the body. Much like other organs, the skin barrier repairs itself during a good night's rest. Research indicates the repair of damaged skin cells from sun exposure peaks at night. Additionally, the circadian rhythm increases the skin's blood flow in the late afternoon and at night.
Moreover, skin permeability, which refers to the rate at which chemicals can pass through the outer layer of the skin, increases in the evening. This effect makes it beneficial for a nightly skincare routine to be fully absorbed.
Sleep deprivation effects on skin appearance
According to the National Institute of Health, experts recommend the average adult needs 7–9 hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation can pose a risk to the skin barrier with the following appearances.
Appearance of wrinkles
Elastin and collagen are proteins that keep our skin firm, stretch, and recoil. Research suggests that lack of sleep weakens the immune system, which can impact collagen production and cause wrinkles.
Furthermore, in a small observational study, researchers found that after one night of sleep deprivation, participants' skin elasticity significantly decreased over the night compared to other skin characteristics.
Appearance of dark circles
Dark circles are facial features commonly associated with fatigue. Although the causes of dark circles can differ, the effects of sleep deprivation can compound their appearance.
A study evaluated photographs taken from participants during a regular sleep time frame and another during sleep deprivation. Researchers indicated participants who were sleep-deprived looked significantly tired — with hanging eyelids, redder eyes, swollen eyelids, and dark circles.
In one study, researchers noted that the skin's hydration content decreased among participants with a late bedtime.
The same study found that sebum content and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) increased at night. Researchers concluded that going to sleep late may impact the skin's barrier and disrupt water–oil balance.
Tips for preventing skin damage during sleep
Taking preventative measures involves adopting new practices to protect your skin at night. Here are some tips to prepare for bedtime.
- Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. Build a sleep schedule and become consistent with a time to wake up and go to bed. As per expert recommendations, it's best to get at least 7–9 hours of sleep.
- Put away electronics. Set a reminder one hour before bedtime to turn off all electronic devices to avoid blue light exposure that can interfere with your sleep.
- Have a nightly skincare routine. Since your skin renews itself every night, take the time to perform a thorough nightly skincare routine. Include a double cleanser to remove makeup, a hydrating night cream, and retinoids for anti-aging.
- Sleep on your back. Side or stomach sleeping positions create compression, shear, and stress forces that result in facial distortion and eventually sleep wrinkles. For quality experience, you can try a contoured pillow designed to make sleeping on your back more comfortable.
- Elevate your head. Sleeping with extra pillows reduces the appearance of dark circles by improving blood flow and reducing excess fluid.
- Switch to silk or satin pillowcases. While cotton and flannel are cozy, silk and satin pillowcases are smoother and do not irritate the skin because of less friction.
- Sleep away from direct sunlight. If you nap during the day, avoid sleeping in direct sunlight to protect your skin. Consider investing in blackout curtains to darken your room.
Managing sleep wrinkles and dark circles quickly
If you wake up in the morning and notice more visible sleep wrinkles and dark circles, try these effective methods below to minimize their appearance before starting your day.
- Sleep wrinkles. To improve your skin appearance in the morning, gently massage your face using your fingertips to increase blood flow and circulation.
- Dark circles. When it comes to dark circles, it can be challenging to eliminate them since their cause can be due to genetics. However, you can use cool compresses or tea bags to constrict blood vessels to reduce their appearance. Also, using makeup by applying a color-correcting concealer for coverage might help.
In the end, several techniques exist to help improve your complexion, but it all comes down to quality sleep. The body needs sleep to reset itself, and so does your skin. Forming a healthy bedtime routine can pave the way to maintaining a good night's rest while protecting your skin in the long run.
How should I sleep to reduce wrinkles?
The best way to prevent sleep wrinkles is to sleep on your back, although not many people find it comfortable with this position. Fortunately, there are now specialty pillows like a contoured pillow to help minimize facial distortion and reduce the risk of sleep wrinkles.
Why did I get wrinkles overnight?
Wrinkles can develop overnight, from sleeping late at night to sleeping on your side and stomach. These positions cause mechanical pressure on the face creating sleep wrinkles. Moreover, cotton and flannel pillowcases may be at fault since they are harsh and pull and drag on the skin.
Can poor sleep cause acne flare-ups?
Yes. Insufficient sleep stresses the body. While stress cannot directly cause acne, it could exacerbate its condition from external sources like sleep deprivation.
The skin barrier restores damaged skin cells during sleep.
Sleep deprivation can pose a risk to the skin barrier by increasing the appearance of wrinkles, dark circles, and poor complexion.
Poor sleep habits can negatively impact the skin. Some habits to avoid include sleeping with makeup on, sleeping on your side or stomach, using cotton or flannel pillowcases, and sleeping in direct sunlight.
Sleep wrinkles develop from mechanical compression on the face.
Establishing a bedtime routine and adopting good skincare practices can promote healthy skin.
- NIH. How much sleep is enough?
- The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Circadian rhythm and the skin: a review of the literature.
- Skin Research and Technology. A study of skin characteristics with long-term sleep restriction in Korean women in their 40s.
- Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. Regular late bedtime significantly affects the skin physiological characteristics of and skin bacterial microbiome.
- Medical Hypotheses. Can poor sleep affect skin integrity?
- Aesthetic Surgery Journal. Sleep wrinkles: facial aging and facial distortion during sleep.
- Sleep Research Society. Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance.