The truth behind sleep and skin health

Created on: February 10, 2021

While the effects of sleep deprivation on our mental health, immune system and weight are well-known, the impact of insufficient sleep on skin health is just starting to come to light. So, what can we do to achieve healthy skin? As it turns out, a lot. The term “beauty sleep” may sound like an old cliché, but it stems from truth.

How does sleep impact the health of my skin?

Have you ever woken up from a restless night and noticed that your skin looks blotchy or dull? Studies show that a lack of quality sleep is directly correlated with reduced skin health. That’s because when we sleep, our body enters recovery mode and produces growth hormones that heal skin from daytime damage such as pollution and sun exposure.

Throughout the night, the body also fortifies its defences against moisture loss and free radical damage, which can reverse the signs of aging and safeguard against disease. In other words, when we sleep too little, we not only feel older… we look older, too.

How much sleep do we need?

According to the Canadian Sleep Society, most adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If you’re getting less than six hours of sleep per night, you may begin to notice the impact on your skin health.

When you don’t get enough sleep, cortisol (the stress hormone) is released throughout the body, causing inflammation. This can lead to chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema. This is also what coined the term “inflamm-AGING”.

What happens to skin cells while we sleep?

The skin has its own circadian clock, with different processes occurring at different times according to an internal schedule. When we sleep, our skin’s metabolic rate increases. This quickly turns over dead skin cells, while also increasing new cells’ production.

REM sleep and skin regeneration

Studies show that as we enter REM sleep between the hours of 11 pm to midnight, the process of cell division (called call mitosis) is at its peak. This helps renew and repair the damage inflicted on skin cells throughout the day. For this reason, REM sleep is crucial to skin regeneration.

REM sleep and collagen production

Scientists have also found that REM sleep is critical for collagen production. When we enter REM sleep, our body naturally repairs its collagen layer in the skin, helping to tighten skin and giving it a more youthful and supple appearance.

The visible effects of poor sleep

Dark circles and puffy eyes

Dark circles and puffy eyes can be caused by a number of factors. The first factor is the dilation of blood vessels around the eyes, which floods the area with fluid. The second factor is an imbalance in the skin’s hydration levels, which results from insufficient overnight detoxification. Simply getting an adequate amount of sleep can prevent this.

Dehydration and wrinkles

Research shows that poor quality sleep accelerates signs of aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced skin elasticity. In another clinical trial, lack of sleep was shown to hinder the skin’s ability to recover from sun exposure, resulting in more wrinkles and sagging skin.

Acne and other skin conditions

Insufficient or poor quality sleep can lead to increased stress hormones and hormonal imbalances, resulting in acne breakouts. The added stress of not sleeping can also trigger psoriasis and atopical dermatitis, leading to greater itching at night and sparking further skin inflammation. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night encourages healthy blood flow to the skin, and results in fewer breakouts and a more even skin tone.

Ways to support sleep and skin

Melatonin for anti-aging benefits

In addition to being a natural sleep-inducer and powerful antioxidant, there is considerable evidence that melatonin is useful as an anti-skin aging compound. Its ability to protect against oxidative stress, reverse DNA damage and even improve REM sleep makes melatonin a critical player in the anti-aging regimen.

Collagen as a natural cosmetic

As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen is a crucial building block of skin. From the age of 25, we lose approximately 1% of our collagen per year, which leads to fine lines, wrinkles and lower skin elasticity. Taking collagen supplements can help reduce wrinkles and dryness, leading to improved skin elasticity and better overall skin structure.

Krill oil for skin health

Thanks to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, krill oil provides anti-aging benefits and helps restore skin balance. Omega-3 works from within as a natural moisturizer, increasing the skin’s elasticity and hydration. This leads to youthful, supple skin – especially on the face. Vitamins A and E, also found in krill oil, act as antioxidants against the effects of harmful free radicals and help improve the overall appearance of skin.

The bottom line: Sleep not only supports our physical and mental health, it has the ability to impact our skin health and how we feel about ourselves. While some may seek cosmetic treatment to look less tired, focusing on a better night’s sleep – with all its skin health benefits – is the best remedy.