Eyes on you: Beauty sleep is real

Wrinkles, bags and crow’s feet don’t stand a chance against an adequate sleep and day-to-day skincare.

Getting the right amount of sleep every night at regular intervals is essential to your health, beauty and lifestyle.

napping in a hammock

Many downsides of not getting enough sleep

“Beauty sleep” is not just an expression — it really is a key to beautiful, healthy skin that lasts. According to New York dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Cameron Rokhsar, MD, FAAD, FAACS, sleep restores the skin’s natural balance and increases the effectiveness in skincare treatments. Skin automatically rejuvenates itself during sleep.

Not enough sleep leads to stress, which triggers the adrenal glands that create an over-production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Once the hormone is released, it stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Stress creates a chain reaction that is recipe for bad skin. Clinical studies have proven stress is the common denominator of many skin problems.

When you don’t get enough sleep, not only are you tired, but, Dr Rokhsar says, you physically show the signs of sleep deprivation with puffy, under-eye bags and dehydrated skin. The ideal amount of consecutive sleep is 6 to 8 hours in order to allow the body to get through the five sleep stages. During these stages, the cortisol and insulin levels help produce more collagen. During the fourth stage, growth hormones surge and tissue repair occurs.

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When a lack of sleep increases the levels of stress hormones, the body undergoes chronic stress, which leads to increased inflammation and subsequent acceleration of aging, and worsening of acne. Poor sleep habits can result in skin sensitivity and irritation. The skin gradually loses its ability to protect itself from all the chemicals, pollutants and dirt it comes in contact with everyday.

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By avoiding caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bed, limiting alcohol and heavy meals before sleep, getting regular exercise, and developing a regular bedtime and morning wake-up call, even on the weekends, your skin will thrive in healthy glow. Dr Rokhsar says that the skin on the eyelid is so thin and delicate it is one of the most noticeable aspects of the face, especially when skin isn’t treated right. As such a delicate part of the face, it needs these healthy lifestyle changes in order to flourish.

Sleep, your skin and aging

In a first-of-its-kind clinical trial, physician-scientists at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center found that sleep quality impacts skin function and aging. The recently completed study, commissioned by Estée Lauder, demonstrated that poor sleepers had increased signs of skin aging and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Poor sleepers also had worse assessment of their own skin and facial appearance.



The research team, led by Primary Investigator Elma Baron, MD, presented their data this spring at the International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland in an abstract titled “Effects of Sleep Quality on Skin Aging and Function.”

“Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin aging. Sleep deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure,” said Dr Baron, Director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

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“Insufficient sleep has become a worldwide epidemic. While chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and immune deficiency, its effects on skin function have previously been unknown.”

Skin functions as an important barrier from external stressors such as environmental toxins and sun-induced DNA damage. The research team set out to determine if skin function and appearance is also impacted by sleep quality, which is vital to the growth and renewal of the body’s immune and physiological systems.

The study involved 60 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 30 and 49, with half of participants falling into the poor quality sleep category. The classification was made on the basis of average duration of sleep and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a standard questionnaire-based assessment of sleep quality. The study involved a visual skin evaluation and participation in several non-invasive skin challenge tests, including UV light exposure and skin barrier disruption. Additionally, participants filled out a sleep log for one week to quantify sleep duration.

Differences between good sleep and bad sleep

The researchers found statistically significant differences between good and poor quality sleepers. Using a skin aging scoring system, poor quality sleepers showed increased signs of intrinsic skin aging, including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and slackening of skin and reduced elasticity. In this system, a higher score means a more aged appearance. The average score in the good quality sleepers was 2.2 versus 4.4 in poor quality sleepers. They found no significant difference between the groups in signs of extrinsic aging, which are attributed primarily to sun exposure, such as coarse wrinkles and sunburn freckles.

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The researchers found that good quality sleepers recovered more efficiently from stressors to the skin. Recovery from sunburn was more sluggish in poor quality sleepers, with erythema (redness) remaining higher over 72 hours, indicating that inflammation is less efficiently resolved.

A Transepidermal Water Loss test was used at various time points to determine the ability of the skin to serve as an effective barrier against moisture loss. In measurements 72 hours after a skin barrier stressor (tape-stripping), the recovery of good quality sleepers was 30% higher than poor quality sleepers (14% vs. -6%) demonstrating that they repair the damage more quickly.

Additionally, poor quality sleepers were significantly more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). For example, 23% of good quality sleepers were obese, compared to 44% of poor quality sleepers. Not surprisingly, self perception of attractiveness was significantly better in good quality sleepers (mean score of 21 on self evaluation) vs. poor quality sleepers (mean score of 18).

“This research shows for the first time, that poor sleep quality can accelerate signs of skin aging and weaken the skin’s ability to repair itself at night,” said Dr Daniel Yarosh, Senior Vice President of Basic Science Research, R&D, at The Estée Lauder Companies.

“These connections between sleep and skin aging, now supported with solid scientific data, will have a profound effect on how we study skin and its functions. We see these findings as yet another way we can direct our scientific research toward the real needs of our customers who want to look and feel their best.”



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