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The Science Behind Beauty Sleep

beauty sleep

Another Reason Why You Should Get More Sleep

We’ve all heard the term ‘I need my beauty sleep’ at one point or another, usually straight after you ask someone to stay up later than they want to. But is there any truth behind it? While sleep influences broader health and wellness, everything from mental clarity to metabolic processes, it also directly impacts our skin. The question is, can we find solid evidence to support that sleep and beauty have a connection? We can. It turns out there is a lot of scientific evidence out there to support the idea that proper sleep is good for skin health.

The Restorative Power of Sleep

During sleep, the body enters a restorative state, allowing it to focus on essential processes that contribute to skin health. The interplay between growth hormones and cortisol largely drives these restorative processes.

In the deep, slow-wave stages of non-REM sleep, the body releases increased amounts of human growth hormone (HGH), a peptide hormone that stimulates cell growth, reproduction, and regeneration. HGH plays a role in collagen synthesis, skin cell renewal, and elastin production, all of which are essential for maintaining the skin’s youthful appearance, texture, and elasticity. This rejuvenation occurs predominantly during the deep, restorative stages of non-REM sleep, when the body’s natural repair processes, such as cell regeneration and tissue repair, are most active. During these phases, blood flow to the skin increases, enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that promote healing and rejuvenation.

On the other side of the coin, sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can have detrimental effects on skin health. Elevated cortisol can break down collagen, leading to premature ageing, wrinkles, and a dull complexion. It can also cause inflammation, exacerbate skin conditions like acne and eczema, and impair the skin’s barrier function, making it more susceptible to moisture loss, irritation, and infection.

If you want further reasons to give more credence to sleep, in addition to skin integrity, elevated cortisol impacts our cardiovascular health and can lead to weight gain. During sleep, cortisol levels naturally decrease, allowing the body to focus on restorative processes and mitigate the negative effects of this stress hormone on skin health.

While REM sleep is less directly involved in these physical repair processes, it plays an essential supporting role in overall physiological health, contributing indirectly to skin condition. Sleep is essential for the skin’s immune function. Lack of sleep can impair the skin’s ability to protect itself from environmental stressors, such as UV radiation, pollution, and free radicals, further contributing to inflammation, premature ageing, and an increased risk of skin issues.

Sleep and Skin Immune Function

Sleep is essential for the skin’s immune function. Lack of sleep can impair the skin’s ability to protect itself from environmental stressors, such as UV radiation, pollution, and free radicals, leading to inflammation, premature ageing, and an increased risk of skin conditions like acne and eczema.

Scientific Evidence Supporting the Connection Between Sleep and Skin Health

The connection between sleep and skin health has been well-documented in scientific literature. Numerous studies have demonstrated sleep’s significant impact on various aspects of skin function and appearance.

Poor sleep = Ageing

A clinical trial by University Hospitals Case Medical Centres showed that poor sleep quality significantly affects skin health, accelerating signs of ageing like fine lines and reduced elasticity and impairing the skin’s ability to recover from environmental stressors like UV exposure (1). The study also found that those with poor sleep had a higher skin ageing score and were slower to recover from skin damage.

Social Perception

A team tried to quantify beauty sleep in a Swedish study published in BMJ. The study investigated the impact of sleep deprivation on perceived health, attractiveness, and tiredness. In an experimental setting, 23 healthy adults were photographed after a normal night’s sleep and after 31 hours of sleep deprivation. Observers rated these photographs on visual analogue scales. You might have guessed, but findings revealed that sleep-deprived individuals were perceived as less healthy, less attractive, and more tired compared to their well-rested states. The study highlights the human sensitivity to sleep-related facial cues, underlining the importance of sleep in maintaining physiological health and social perception (2).

The Best Time For Skin Repair

The review article titled “Circadian Rhythm and the Skin” in the Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology explores the impact of circadian rhythm disruptions on various skin conditions (3). It highlights research indicating that DNA damage from exposure to ultraviolet light can continue in the dark and that DNA repair in skin cells peaks at night. The article also emphasises the importance of adequate sleep for effective DNA repair in the skin, suggesting a broader approach to skin health that includes circadian rhythm management.

Another lifestyle factor

The article “Enhancing Skin Anti-Aging through Healthy Lifestyle Factors”, published in the Cosmetics Journal, discusses the significant influence of lifestyle health factors on skin well-being and ageing (4). It highlights daily behaviours’ importance in preventing disease and maintaining overall health, focusing on how incremental lifestyle changes can enhance skin health. Four lifestyle factors are emphasised as beneficial for skin health, one of these being sleep. This overview was based on a review of recent scientific literature, primarily from the past five years. It suggests that interventions promoting these lifestyle changes could be part of the puzzle towards improving skin health in the future.

Incorporating regular exercise, a nutrient-rich diet, and mindfulness practices into your daily routine can further enhance the quality of your sleep and, by extension, your skin’s health and appearance.

A lot of this stuff we already know, and the science behind beauty sleep seems pretty well-established. So there you go- Adequate, high-quality sleep is important for maintaining healthy, youthful-looking skin by supporting cell regeneration, collagen production, and the skin’s overall repair and immune functions. Prioritising your sleep (if you were not already) should be an essential part of your comprehensive skincare routine.


(1) University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “Sleep deprivation linked to aging skin, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 July 2013. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130723155002.htm.

(2) Axelsson J, Sundelin T, Ingre M, Van Someren E J W, Olsson A, Lekander M et al. Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people BMJ 2010; 341 :c6614 doi:10.1136/bmj.c6614 https://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c6614

(3) Lyons, Alexis B et al. “Circadian Rhythm and the Skin: A Review of the Literature.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 12,9 (2019): 42-45. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31641418/

(4) Knaggs, Helen, and Edwin D. Lephart. 2023. “Enhancing Skin Anti-Aging through Healthy Lifestyle Factors” Cosmetics 10, no. 5: 142. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics10050142



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