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The Science of Beauty Sleep: How Sleep Impacts Your Skin and Hair

The Science of Beauty Sleep: How Sleep Impacts Your Skin and Hair

Sleep deprivation doesn’t just make you cranky. Repeatedly losing out on quality sleep can cause skin problems and make your hair look shabby.

That’s because while you’re sleeping, your body is busy working its magic to give your face an enviable morning glow and your head a slew of luscious locks.

Turns out, my friends, beauty sleep is a real thing, and not some made-up cliché our mothers told us about when we were kids, just to get us to go to bed.

You can probably guess what happens when you have one too many sleepless nights. Skin breakouts and dull, lifeless hair are just two of the many hair and skin consequences.

Not convinced that sleep actually contributes to a better appearance?  Well, then, you’ve come to the right place. This blog helps explain the science of "beauty sleep" and answers some of the most common questions about this phenomenon, including:

What is beauty sleep (and why does it matter)?

Ah, beauty sleep. The cherished miracle that promises to magically turn us from bedraggled raccoons into radiant butterflies, overnight.

Beauty sleep isn’t just a whimsical term. It’s a crucial period during which your body goes into superhero mode, repairing, rejuvenating, and revitalizing your skin and hair cells.

Why beauty sleep matters

Sleep deprivation isn’t just the harbinger of under-eye bags. Failing to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night is a recipe for lackluster skin and brittle hair. 

In fact, it's not an exaggeration to say that sleep is the cornerstone of maintaining healthy skin and hair. It’s when your body produces and secretes the hormones in charge of keeping you looking – and feeling – your best. Those hours of rest are your ticket to waking up a dazzling masterpiece, so it’s crucial to make sleep a priority in your daily routine.

The science beneath the sheets

While your brain is busy dreaming about whatever floats your boat, your body is working hard to balance hormones, regulate metabolism, and repair the daily wear and tear you inflict on yourself.

Some of the VIP guests that make an appearance include:

  • Growth hormones. The release of growth hormones during sleep ramps up collagen The fewer hours you sleep at night, the less time your hair and skin have to repair themselves.
  • Melatonin. Your hair and skin are exposed to all sorts of harmful chemicals and other damaging elements circulating in the environment. Melatonin plays a crucial role in maintaining your hair and skin health.
  • Cortisol. Adequate restful sleep helps your body control cortisol production. If you fail to get enough shut-eye, your body maintain the “fight or flight” response that too much cortisol creates, which can negatively impact your hair growth cycle.

How does lack of sleep affect the skin?

Ever wonder how you wake up with that certain je ne sais quoi? It’s all about your skin’s dedication to working the night shift.

While you’re slumbering away in dreamland, your skin cells get to work regenerating, boosting collagen production, and battling the villains of aging and environmental stress.

Imagine your skin as a blank canvas, delicate and deserving of a skilled artist’s touch. Now, picture what happens when you deny that canvas the essential brushstrokes it needs to become a breathtaking piece of art.

Sleep deprivation is one of the worst things you can do for your skin. Some of the ways your skin shows its displeasure include:

  • Acne and skin blemishes are definitely tell-tale signs of sleep deprivation. Consistently lacking sleep amps up cortisol production, which in turn boosts oil production. That one-two punch provides the perfect scenario for breakouts and other skin issues.
  • Dark circles form under your eyes if you don’t get enough sleep each night. The cosmetics industry capitalizes on your sleeplessness by creating a swath of products designed to hide your sleep deprivation from the outside world. Not getting adequate rest each night causes blood vessels to dilate and become darker, making them easier to see through your skin.
  • Dullness and dehydration make your skin look gray and drab. Sleep is when your body boosts blood flow to your skin, providing it with essential nutrients and oxygen. Without enough of it, your skin becomes as parched as a desert, losing its vitality and glow.
  • Fine lines and premature aging are also cringe-worthy consequences of not getting enough rest each night. Without adequate collagen production, your skin can age prematurely.
  • Inflammation is a silent saboteur of skin health. Sleep deprivation disrupts your body’s inflammatory response, making your skin more prone to redness and irritation. It can even exacerbate existing conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Beauty sleep isn’t a suggestion. It’s your skin’s secret weapon against the chaos of daily life.

How does losing sleep affect hair health?

What if I told you that the reason you have so much trouble styling your hair each morning has nothing to do with the haircare products you use on it?

Most people assume they need to switch up their cleansing or styling brands or routines when their hair becomes a bit rebellious. Oftentimes, what they really need is a good night’s sleep.

It’s not just your skin that suffers when you fail to get enough rejuvenating sleep each night. Sleep deprivation causes some hair-raising side effects, making your hair dull and difficult to manage.

Brittle, breakage-prone hair

Ever wonder why your hair sometimes feels as fragile as cotton candy? Lack of sleep is a usual suspect.

During sleep is when your body repairs and strengthens hair strands, ensuring they remain flexible and resistant to breakage. Without adequate sleep, your hair becomes brittle, prone to splitting and breaking, and resembling something akin to what you’d find at the bottom of a bird’s nest.  

Dull, lifeless locks

During sleep, blood flow to your hair follicles increases, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen for hair growth and overall hair health.

When you don’t get enough sleep at night, your body doesn’t have time to complete this vital process. Your hair becomes starved of nourishment.

The result? Your hair looks dull and lifeless, no matter how much you spend on hair products to make it look better.

Hair thinning and loss

Increased blood flow to your hair follicles does more than help your hair look shiny and bouncy. It supports hair growth.

Scientists have discovered a link between hair loss and sleep deprivation. Sleep is when your body goes into repair and renew mode, sending essential nutrients to your hair follicles to stimulate hair growth.

Without the recommended amount of sleep each night, new hair production slows down dramatically, leading to thinning and loss.

Premature graying

No doubt about it: gray hair can be alluring. However, it’s not something most people seek out prematurely. Another unpleasant side effect of sleep deprivation is the acceleration of those silver strands.

Oxidative stress affects melanin production – the pigment responsible for your hair color. If your idea of a good time is not spending hours coloring your hair to cover premature gray, then find creative ways to get a more restful night of sleep.

What are some tips for maximizing beauty sleep?

Unlocking the elusive art of beauty sleep is like discovering a magical potion for your skin and hair. You know it exists, but you’re still on a quest to find it.

Once you understand the secret power of shut-eye to give you gorgeous locks and skin, you can turn your nightly slumber into a rejuvenating experience.

Here are some helpful tips for maximizing beauty sleep to get the most benefit.

Embrace a consistent sleep schedule

Bedtime routines aren’t just for children. A mistake most adults make is thinking they can go to bed whenever they want because they’re grownups.

The problem with that kind of thinking is it’s detrimental to your hair and skin health. Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day – yes, including weekends – helps regulate your body’s internal clock.

Once you’ve established a structured sleep schedule, it’s easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed

Establish a soothing bedtime routine

Parting (from your electronic devices) is such sweet sorrow. However, if you want to sleep better at night, you should unplug from all technology at least an hour before your scheduled bedtime.

Research supports the notion that the blue light emitted by screens interferes with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Commit to putting away your devices as part of a soothing bedtime routine.

Engage in calming activities like gentle stretching, meditating, and reading to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and rest.

Design a sleep-conducive environment

I'm serious: make the effort to transform your sleeping area into a serene sanctuary. Think comfy pillows, cozy blankets, and a room that’s dark, cool, and quiet.

Invest in some blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or an eye mask if you’re struggling to fall asleep.

You can also consider using a natural sleep aid for sleep deprivation. An aromatherapy sleep inhaler with all-natural ingredients like essential oils of hops, lavender, marjoram, and vanilla can encourage you to fall asleep faster and support a deeper sleep.

Mind your midnight snacking

Eating heavy or spicy meals close to your bedtime can disrupt your sleep by causing indigestion or other intestinal discomforts.

If you must snack, choose something light that’s gentle on your stomach like unsalted popcorn or sunflower seeds. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like  avocado, kiwi, oranges, papaya, even walnuts) all support a restful night’s sleep, so you can’t go wrong with them. 

Hydrate (but not too late)

Getting adequate hydration throughout the day is important for skin and hair health. Not only should you drink the recommended amount of water each day. You also should limit alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime because it can interfere with your sleep quality.

Try to avoid guzzling too much water right before bedtime. It’s difficult to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep if you keep waking up for pee breaks.

Move your body

Getting enough physical exercise during the day sets you up for better sleep at night. Just make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime, or the opposite can happen. You’ll find yourself revved up instead of feeling relaxed enough to sleep.

That’s because exercise releases feel-good chemicals in your body, including endorphins. Physical activity also enhances the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which your body uses to power all its processes.

Go to sleep and good night

There’s nothing ordinary about getting your beauty sleep. Resting for 7 to 8 hours each night is the key to extraordinary skin and hair health.

Getting ample Zzzzs isn’t an indulgence. It’s a necessity. Every time you sink into a slumber, your body orchestrates a symphony of repair, restoration, and renewal.

Here’s to a restful night’s sleep, my friends!

Shari Berg is a researcher, frequent blogger, feature writer, and author of Wars End with Me


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