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The Science Behind Beauty Sleep

Medical professionals across a number of fields agree that sleep is essential for overall health and wellness. Unfortunately, the average person (ahem, you and me) fails to realize that sleep impacts nearly every function of the body, including abstract functions we don’t think about daily — like our skin and hair.

Many of us don’t take care of our skin (or hair for that matter) as religiously as we watch what we eat or prioritize going to the gym, even though our skin happens to be the largest organ of the body with a pretty important job - to protect us. We wake up, slap on concealer to cover up those pesky bags under our eyes, come home, wash our face before bed and call it a day. But have we ever stopped to consider that our sleep could be impacting our overall skin quality?

Have you ever wondered if there is any validity to the famed myth of “getting your beauty sleep?”  Because the adult in me can’t chalk it all up to the Disney movies of my childhood.

Before we dare answer this question, we must first understand our skin’s primary role.

How the skin works:

Our skin’s number one responsibility is to act as a barrier that keeps the bad things, like dirt and toxins, out and the good things in. One of those good things we want to skin to retain is moisture. If moisture rapidly evaporates through our skin, we are left out to dry, literally. Dry skin causes irritation, itching and, in some cases, eczema.

So where does sleep come in?

Glad you asked.

In 2013, Dr. Elma Baron, Professor of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve University, led a research study commission by Estee Lauder on the effects of sleep deprivation on the skin. Dr. Baron’s team found that lack of sleep decreases our skin barrier function (aka what we just talked about - you know, keeping bad things out and good things in).

The research found a statistically significant difference in the skin barrier function of women who got an adequate amount of sleep (more than seven hours) and those who did not. In other words, poor sleepers failed to retain moisture as well as good sleepers.

This same study found evidence that individuals who were poor sleepers took longer to recover from sun damage. In an interview with Fox News, Dr. Baron pointed out that “the problem with lingering sun damage it increases the likelihood of skin cancer and aging.”

If you think about it, this isn’t that surprising. After all, it’s during sleep our body repairs itself. Same goes for the skin. Like other organs, the skin needs sleep to rest, rejuvenate and repair itself.

It turns out the phenomenon of beauty sleep does in fact have truth to it.

If you struggle to log more than seven hours of sleep a night, what can you do?

Unfortunately, there is no playbook for waking up flawless, but there are a few tips you can apply to get one step closer to glowing skin:

  1. Log more hours of sleep  

Although sleep won’t solve all your skin problems, it plays a big role in skin repair and restoration. If you aren’t getting adequate sleep at night, take a look at your sleeping environment. Is your mattress ten years too old? Maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Perhaps you are drinking caffeine too late in the day. Assess your sleep hygiene. If you struggle from lack of sleep regularly, you may want to talk to your primary care physician about potential solutions.

2. Don’t sleep in makeup

We’ve all had those nights where we have fallen asleep with our full face on. Every once in a while, that’s okay! But of you have a habit of sleeping in makeup, it’s time you break it. Failing to remove cosmetics from the surface of our skin leads to clogged pores and breakouts. To keep you skin as healthy as possible, avoid the use unnecessary products when you can.

3. Use a moisturizing cleanser  

Even for those who don’t wear makeup, it’s important we wash our face in the morning and at night. Our skin encounters many external elements throughout the day (think dirt, pollution, weather and then some). You want to keep your skin clean.

Moisturizing cleansers are often recommended because they cleanse without drying your skin out or stripping your skin of the lipids you need. This type of cleanser tends to be more gentle.

We should do our best to protect the organ whose primary job is to protect us! For some of us, that starts in bed.

Authored by Lisa Smalls

About the Author: 

Lisa is a freelance writer from North Carolina. Her battle with insomnia since her teenage years has grown her passion for educating readers on the importance of sleep health. When she isn’t writing, you can find her at cycling class or trying a new recipe on the kitchen.

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