How does sleep affect your skin?
Inadequate sleep accelerates the ageing process. Find out why – and how best to combat it.
Lots of things – some obvious, some not – can affect the way your skin looks and feels. Most of us know that not drinking enough water, and consuming too much alcohol, sugar and salt, are the enemy of complexion perfection. Seasonal weather changes, air conditioning, and unsuitable skincare product choices, can also cause problems. But there’s another factor that can really make or break the face you present to the world: the quality and the quantity of your sleep.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep is vital for both physical and mental health. Not getting enough can have serious consequences: there’s a reason why sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture! Sleep is an essential function that allows both your body and mind to recharge. It helps to stave off illness, and encourages recovery and repair. Without enough sleep, your brain can’t function properly. This in turn impairs your ability to think clearly, process new information and archive memories.
Most adults need between seven to nine hours’ sleep a night. However, getting that much isn’t always easy. According to research conducted by Formulate Health, 36% of adults struggle to get to sleep at least on a weekly basis. Nearly half of the UK has trouble falling asleep at least once a month – and one in five adults have trouble falling asleep every single night. It’s worth nothing that trouble sleeping means different things to different people. Insomnia doesn’t just mean lying awake all night. It incorporates disrupted sleep, waking up too early, or still feeling exhausted when you do wake up. In other words, sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity.
Not all sleep is the same. The three key stages are light, deep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). Deep sleep facilitates cell regeneration, which is crucial for healthy growth, development and health. It’s sometimes known as the healing stage, when tissue growth and repair take place. This is when vital hormones are released, and cellular energy is restored. REM sleep is when you’re most likely to dream and is considered to be mentally restorative.
How does lack of sleep affect your skin?
Is ‘beauty sleep’ really a thing? Can spending more time in bed help you look younger? We can’t promise miracles, but regular sleep is essential for clear, glowing, healthy looking skin.
A lack of sleep can manifest itself in a number of different ways. Two of the most common issues are dark circles and puffiness. The former can be related to an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone) which is produced when the body is tired. Cortisol can cause blood vessels to dilate (not good for the under-eye area!). It can also elevate inflammation and oil production, which can in turn lead to breakouts.
Sleep is vital for skin renewal and repair. If you’re not getting enough, these processes slow down, toxins and fluids aren’t flushed away, and puffiness – especially around the eyes – is often the result. When we’re tired, our blood circulation also tends to be less efficient. This can result in lower blood oxygen levels, which can make skin appear dull, grey or blotchy.
Sleep also encourages the production of collagen, the protein that stops skin from sagging. Collagen is what keeps skin looking plump and youthful. Once it starts to break down, your skin will look less firm and smooth. Dry skin is another possible consequence of sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep can disrupt our pH levels, which can lead to dryness, with fine lines and wrinkles appearing much more pronounced.
Night-time skincare repair
There are lots of strategies to try if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep. First, set a consistent timetable. Try to go to bed at the same time every night – and don’t lie in for hours at the weekend. Make sure your bedroom is cool and dark, and limit screen time before you turn in. Blue light from digital devices can make it harder for your brain to shut down (and it can damage your skin too). Don’t eat dinner too late, and limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption. Meditation and mindfulness techniques can be helpful if stress is keeping you awake.
When you’re tired, the last thing you want to deal with is a time-consuming skincare routine, but the right products can make a real difference. Make sure you cleanse properly before going to bed. Do it as soon as you get home, if necessary. SkinCeuticals’ Gentle Cleanser is ideal if your skin is dry and/or sensitive. Its ultra-mild, non-foaming formula deep cleans without drying, and includes Orange Oil, Allantoin and Glycerin to soothe, nourish and hydrate. If your skin is oily or combination, try SkinCeuticals Simply Clean instead.
Skin is naturally more receptive to repair products at night. Emma Hardie’s Moringa Renewal Treatment Mask enhances skin’s moisture levels, radiance and firmness, and also targets pigmentation. It can be used during the day for a fast facial pick-me-up, or left on overnight as an intensive treatment. If your primary concern is to stop the sag, we recommend Swissline’s Cell Shock 360 Anti-Wrinkle Serum Triple Collagen Complex. This advanced formulation provides three different types of collagen refurbishment, alongside Hyaluronic Acid for hydration, plus the brand’s signature Cellactel 2 Complex, renowned for its ability to regenerate and repair.
Whether you’re seriously sleep-deprived on not, a specialist night cream, such as Medik8’s Advanced Night Restore, is a worthwhile addition to almost any skincare routine. This antioxidant formulation smooths and brightens, encourages cell repair, and restores and rejuvenates tired skin. It features a nourishing Ceramide Complex to protect and restore the skin barrier, and an iron hexapeptide to neutralise free radical damage.
Lastly, tired eyes will love The Organic Pharmacy’s Lifting Eye Gel. This intensive treatment delivers targeted relief and refreshment via an antibacterial stainless steel ball. Lines, puffiness and dark circles appear diminished, while antioxidant Bilberry stimulates circulation. Simply apply under the eyes every morning and evening – and throughout the day if desired.