Research by The Sleep Council reveals that three quarters of Brits (74%) sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night. But did you know that sleep deprivation can cause irreversible damage to your skin?
We asked health expert Dr Sreedhar Krishna, Consultant Dermatologist at skindoc to find out how quickly poor sleep can age you.
- Two days of inadequate sleep will result in visible changes to your skin
- After four weeks, your body stops repairing the visible damage
- If this continues, in just three months your skin will age significantly
6 hours’ sleep a night accelerates ageing, says health expert
‘Ensuring an adequate amount of sleep (at least seven hours per night) will help your body and mind regenerate overnight,’ continues Dr Krishna. ‘Most people can function on less sleep for a short period (e.g. six hours). But this isn’t a secret lifehack - running on six hours or less for a long period has been shown to accelerate ageing.’
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Just one night of poor sleep can make you look less attractive, according to science
It turns out beauty sleep isn’t a myth, after all. Research shows that just one night of sleep deprivation can make you look less healthy and less attractive. Another study found that people are less likely to socialise with others if we can detect sleep loss in a person’s face.
Here are the unwanted effects which can be caused by just one poor sleep.
Acne severity and sleep quality are linked, according to a recent study. A lack of sleep leads to an increase in cortisol levels and oil production in your skin. This clogs your pores and follicles, which is a key cause of acne and spots.
One of the telltale signs that you haven’t had enough sleep is dark circles, which can happen after just a single night of tossing and turning. Dark circles are genetic, but when you don’t get enough sleep, they’re much more noticeable due to increased cortisol levels, which cause your blood vessels to increase in size.
Bags under your eyes are another issue which you can see after one night of poor sleep. While eye bags are caused by ageing, they’re exacerbated when you feel tired. This is because blood flow is decreased and more fluid is retained by the skin, causing swelling.
Dry skin and cracked lips
Skin hydration significantly reduces after just one night of sleep deprivation, according to research where participants missed out on four hours of their usual sleep.
Dehydration due to a lack of sleep can affect your skin’s pH level. The less sleep you have, the lower your pH level, which means your skin can’t produce the moisture it needs, resulting in dry skin and unevenness.
What’s more, when you sleep, you sweat. This actually helps to rehydrate and rebalance your skin, working as a natural moisturiser. If you aren’t well-rested, your skin will look and feel dry. Your lips might feel cracked, too.
Pale, sallow skin
A night of poor sleep can create an imbalance in your skin, giving it a pale or sallow look in a short period of time. The colour of your skin is affected due to a thin layer of collagen referred to as a ‘sacrificial’ layer. This layer is broken down by stress, exposure to the sun and alcohol.
Sleep helps to replenish the layer, giving your skin a natural glow, more elasticity and a better structure.
Long-term sleep deprivation increases signs of ageing, study shows
If you suffer from long-term sleep deprivation, your skin could suffer from more serious and potentially irreversible effects. One study showed that chronic poor sleep quality is linked to increased signs of ageing and damage to your protective skin barrier.
It’s important to keep your skin barrier healthy, as it protects your skin from allergens and helps to retain moisture. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night and your skin barrier is damaged, there are some long-lasting effects to watch out for.
When we sleep, blood flow increases in the skin which causes collagen to rebuild and repair damage caused by UV exposure. This can affect the skin’s appearance and youthfulness, leading to fine lines and wrinkles.
One study showed after just five nights of two hours’ sleep deprivation, almost half (45%) of participants saw an increase in fine lines and wrinkles.
Poor sleep is linked to an increase in the so-called stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol breaks down collagen, harming the skin and increasing the ageing process.
Like with wrinkles and fine lines, a lack of collagen can affect the elasticity of your skin causing it to loosen. This can be seen around the mouth and the neck. Extended periods of bad sleep can speed up the natural ageing process, especially in these areas.
Not only can cortisol lead to skin issues due to its relationship with collagen, but it’s also linked to skin inflammation. This is another cause of your skin losing its elasticity, particularly over extended periods.
5 tips to improve your skin through sleep, according to a dermatologist
Our health expert Dr Sreedhar Krishna, Consultant Dermatologist gave us his top tips to improve your skin during sleep.
1. Choose a silk pillowcase for less friction
Skin and hair don't like friction, but you can avoid this with a silk pillowcase, as the material glides over your face while you sleep. Silk pillowcases are also better if you use night creams or serums, as they’re less likely to be absorbed by the fabric when compared to cotton.
2. Keep your bedroom cool - between 16-18°C
We get the best quality sleep by keeping our bedroom’s temperature between 16 and 18°C (mildly cool). Use a fan to circulate air around the room, keep your mattress cool and make sure to change your duvet tog in different seasons.
3. Say no to caffeine after lunch
While we might need a caffeine hit to power through a busy afternoon, a post-lunch coffee could ruin your sleep. Using caffeine after midday can overstimulate the nervous system, which affects your ability to wind down. This means that your body stays in a state of semi-alertness, even during sleep, resulting in poor quality sleep that doesn’t help our body replenish our skin.
4. Drink a couple of glasses of water before bed
Keeping yourself well-hydrated ensures that your kidneys don’t have to work so hard to filter toxins. This helps your skin, too - when we are well-hydrated, it helps to plump up the skin and produce a glowing complexion.
We recommend having at least a couple of glasses of water before bed to ensure that you don’t become dehydrated overnight. You may need to go to the loo in the early morning but it’s a price worth paying for radiant skin.
5. Put your phone away to avoid wrinkles
Scrolling through social media before bed could cause wrinkles! The blue light emitted by smartphones restricts the production of melatonin, the hormone which regulates sleep. If you’re low on melatonin, you can experience insomnia, tiredness and irritability. This can also make your skin puffy and speeds up the development of fine lines and wrinkles.
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