Scientists have learned a lot about sleep over the past few decades. First, they learned that if we don’t get enough, we increase our risk of health problems like obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Then they learned that the optimal number of hours most people need per night is seven to eight.
They’ve also been studying how sleep affects the skin, and they’ve discovered some fascinating things. First of all, if you don’t get enough sleep, it shows up on your skin. We talked about this in a previous post entitled, “Why Your Poor Night’s Sleep Could Make You Look Older.”
Secondly, there are a number of processes going on in your skin while you’re asleep that you probably weren’t aware of. They all have to do with skin’s good health and appearance. In fact, without sleep, your skin can’t take care of itself like it should.
Once you realize how much sleep benefits your skin, you may be more inclined to try to get more of it!
1. Your skin cells regenerate during sleep.
After you’ve drifted off to la-la land, the cells in your skin go to work. They divide, as cells are known to do, and get busy repairing whatever injuries the skin was subjected to that day. While the sun is up, the skin works hard to protect itself, but at night, it switches to repair mode, to help get ready for the next day.
In a 2014 study, researchers found that the skin, in particular, is sensitive to circadian rhythms, and changes between night and day. Circadian rhythms influence skin aging, cell repair and even the development of skin cancers. The sleep hormone melatonin increases at night, which also increases skin’s ability to repair itself. Production of the human growth hormone also kicks in during sleep, accelerating cell regeneration.
2. Your skin is most receptive to treatment during sleep.
If you want to get the most bang for your buck out of your skin care treatments, use them at night. Not only is skin more relaxed then, because it doesn’t have to protect you from the sun’s rays and other environmental aggressors, but it’s also more open to treatment. It’s warmer and more permeable, so skin care treatments tend to penetrate better than they do in the daytime.
Research has shown that the time of day (or night) is important in delivering anti-aging regimens to the skin, with nighttime making treatments more effective. That’s why it’s always best to use your retinols, alpha hydroxy acids, and other serums at night, before you go to sleep.
3. Your skin, like you, gets to relax at night.
Just like you face stress during the day, your skin does, too. Every time you experience stress, hormones are released that affect the skin. Cortisol, one of the stress hormones, is known to increase inflammation on your face, which is definitely not good if you want to stay looking young. The skin has it’s own stresses, too, as it seeks to protect you from environmental assault.
Sleep gives your skin a chance to relax, as all those hormones drop down and your skin looks better because of it. If you’re waking up with puffy eyes and skin or red skin, however, you’re probably not sleeping as well as you should, as these are signs of inflammation. A lack of sleep can also increase stress, subjecting your skin to more cortisol-induced damage. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more adrenaline, another stress hormone, to keep you going during the day. This is another stress response, though, that can lead to premature aging.
4. Your skin perspires more at night, but it also gets dryer.
Your skin’s natural production of sebum (skin oil) peaks at midday, then drops off from there. As you go into the night and overnight, your skin gradually loses more moisture. But as you’re sleeping, your skin perspires more, which provides additional moisture. As long as you get the sleep you need, these processes balance out, helping your skin look hydrated in the morning.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, though, or if you’re not sleeping well, moisture levels in your skin can easily become unbalanced, and pH levels can change, too, which can affect your skin’s ability to produce it’s own moisture. Inflammation increases, which disrupts the skin barrier function, and that makes it harder for skin to hold onto moisture. The result? Dryer, duller skin.
A good night cream can help—our Calming Moisture helps encourage repair and healing while deeply moisturizing.
5. Your skin produces more protective antioxidants while you sleep.
While you’re snoozing, your body is not only repairing itself, it’s also preparing for the next day. That means making sure it has enough antioxidants ready to shield you against the sun’s rays and other environmental pollutants after you wake up. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you won’t be able to produce as many of these antioxidants as you need.
You can help yourself by getting more antioxidants from your diet, in the form of fruits and vegetables, but over time, even this won’t be enough if you’re chronically sleep deprived. Your skin will lack the defenses it needs to protect you from free-radical damage, and increased fine lines and wrinkles will show up.
Bottom line: Sleep is super important to your skin’s health and appearance, so be sure to get your 7-8 hours per night!
How much sleep do you usually get?
Luber, A. J. (2014). Therapeutic implications of the circadian clock on skin function. J Drugs Dermatol., 13(2), 130-4.