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Sleeping Beauty: How Sleep Cycles Affect Skin Health

If there’s one thing we know about the current times we live in, it’s that we are not getting enough sleep. Whether it’s stress, school, work, binge-watching a new show, trying to soothe a child that just refuses to sleep, insomnia, or disruptors in the environment around us, sleep is sadly the first thing to be neglected in our hectic daily schedules. In addition to all the unfortunate repercussions of sleep deprivation, like weakened immune systems, chronic diseases, or depression, sleep deprivation will most definitely show on our skin! Studies have repeatedly shown that just one night of poor sleep can cause undereye circles, paler skin, swollen eyes, and more prominent wrinkles or fine lines.

These detrimental effects, usually observable around the eyes and lips, are brought by the significant trans-epidermal water loss, reduced blood flow, and reduced elasticity associated with disturbed sleep cycles. For more info on how sleep deprivation affects our bodies please watch this insightful TedED video here.

Nocturnal skin: What happens to our skin when we sleep?

“You look tired!”, says your friend to you as soon as they see your puffy eyes and pale skin after you skimped on sleep the night before. Aside from the obvious self-consciousness instigated by your –now– less favorite friend, why is it that you look tired?

When we sleep, our circadian rhythms get us into autopilot as they try to conserve energy. This happens by directing the blood flow towards the skin while keeping a cool core body temperature. The results of which on the skin include vasodilation which allows toxin clearance, skin repair, and a healthy skin barrier function. For more info on this topic please enjoy this article here.

Sleep is also associated with a higher rate of trans-epidermal water loss in the skin which may cause dehydration if the surrounding air is dry.

On the other hand, sleep deprivation has been associated with decreased blood flow to the skin (causing puffiness and swelling), and an increase in glucocorticoid secretion. In addition to inflammatory cytokines like TNF-alpha and IL-1, which, in turn, threaten the integrity of the skin barrier, making the skin look pale, dry, with dark undereye circles. For advice on maintaining proper skin barrier function, please read the work of Brandy Hernandez here.

Five steps you can take to sleep better:

Just like you, your skin can’t wait to go to sleep every night after a full day of defending you against sun exposure, free radicals, and harsh surroundings. So, when it’s ready to repair itself, you can take a few steps to help it.

1- Reduce all stressors: sleep in the dark, minimize all noise, and try a relaxing scent. Disturbed sleep cycles can cause you to sleep while frowning which drastically increases wrinkles.

2- Sleep on your back if you can help it. sleeping on your back allows proper blood flow to your skin. Sleeping on your side or front can cause fluid accumulation and emphasized puffiness/swelling.

3- Try satin pillow sheets instead. Rubbing against rough pillowcase fabric can cause dryness and irritation.

4- Cleanse your face gently and use an occlusive moisturizer before bed.

5- Sleep...A lot. Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep daily to allow your skin enough repair time.

Sleeping well is our modern-day fountain of youth, with benefits that don’t just affect your skin, but also your hair, mood, and overall health. So, good night, and in the words of Beyonce, may “you wake up, flawless”.


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