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Getting your beauty sleep

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Do you want to know the best anti-ageing secret ever? It’ll improve skin tone, get rid of dark circles under the eyes, and even better it’s free. You guessed it - sleep!

Be it night shifts, young kids or partying till dawn, most of us experience dull skin and puffy eyes after a night or two of missed sleep. It turns out that sleep loss over a longer period can actually lead to more wrinkles and make you look older.

A study at the Skin Study Centre at University Hospital in Ohio in 2013 involving 60 women between the ages of 30 and 49, found that poor sleepers had increased signs of skin ageing and slower recovery from a range of environmental stressors, like exposure to the sun.

Researchers found big differences in the skin quality between good and poor sleepers. Those who didn’t get enough sleep showed increased fine lines, uneven pigmentation, slacker and less elastic skin.

"A lack of sleep is extremely hazardous to both the interior and the exterior of skin," says advanced skin care specialist Debbie Thomas. "Skin will appear sallow and eyes can become puffy after a few nights of missed sleep but regularly missing sleep can lead to fine lines and dark circles."

Debbie explains: "This is because when you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases excess amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. This can break down collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm and plump."

The stress effect

In the land of nod your body works its magic. "When you’re fast asleep, the body goes into repair mode and regenerates skin, blood and brain cells, as well as muscles," says Lisa Artis from the Sleep Council.

"If you sleep badly, you are likely to become stressed, and this can cause the capillaries to tighten affecting the flow of nutrients to the skin and scalp, causing the skin and hair to look dull," adds Lisa. "Stress creates a hormonal response whereby the body produces extra adrenaline, which has a major impact on skin function - think drier skin, lines and sagging skin."

See for yourself

You can see for yourself how a lack of sleep shows up in your own face and skin.

In one study in the British Medical Journal, people rated photos of sleep-starved faces as less healthy and less attractive than pictures of well-rested faces.

A Sleep Council survey found that 1 in 10 women felt so tired it affected their appearance every single day. Shadows and bags under the eyes, washed out and pasty skin were the top complaints.

"It also found that more than 9 out of 10 women agreed the best tonic to looking and/or feeling better was a good night’s sleep," says Lisa.

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