There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the phrase ‘getting your beauty sleep’. But is beauty sleep an actual thing? How can sleep benefit our skin and hair and does it really impact on the signs of ageing?
What is beauty sleep?
When turning in for the night, have you ever stopped to consider what your amazing body is about to get up to? The idea of beauty sleep may have been around for some time, and scientific evidence tells us there’s a genuine link between good sleep habits and the way we look.
However, we need more than a series of catnaps to look our best – beauty sleep only comes with good quality, all-night sleep. You may already know that sleep consists of a series of sleep cycles – light, deep and REM. Quality sleep sees us go through these phases several times a night. And it’s while we go through the deep and REM phases that our body – and skin – repairs itself on a cellular level. It’s the skin repair we get while sleeping that makes us look healthy and rejuvenated, hence the term beauty sleep.
The benefits of sleep for skin
Not only does sleep help our skin repair on a cellular level, but it’s also essential for delivering the nutrients it needs and helping remove the excess toxins that build up. Hormones such as melatonin help protect us from free radicals that cause ageing, while collagen production ramps up, increasing our skin’s suppleness and smoothing out wrinkles.
Another benefit for your skin is a decrease in cortisol levels while we’re slumbering. As one of our body’s stress hormones, cortisol levels remain high if we don’t get enough sleep. High cortisol levels interfere with the way our skin heals from daily damage and can increase inflammation causing a range of skin problems.
Sleep to slow aging
It’s official, missing out on sleep does age us. That’s because a lack of sleep means your body doesn’t have the opportunity to produce the collagen needed to plump up your complexion and iron out wrinkles. Poor sleep can also affect how much water your skin retains, with sleep-deprived complexions losing moisture more easily.
Interestingly, it’s not just the amount of sleep we get that can accelerate the signs of ageing. The way we sleep has an impact too. Sleeping on our backs (try a memory foam pillow for great neck support) helps maintain youthfulness thanks to the way it reduces pressure and friction on our skin as we sleep. Your choice of pillowcase can have an impact too. Silk minimizes friction on our skin as we sleep and reduces moisture loss – both of which can limit the formation of wrinkles as we sleep.
Sleep to improve acne
It’s not just a healthy glow that’s improved by investing in your sleep. Sleep can reduce acne and breakouts as well. Research shows that poor sleep quality and a lack of sleep is associated with acne. That’s because without enough sleep your skin is unable to remove the toxins that build up in the day. Not only that, cortisol levels remain high, causing inflammation and increasing your chances of breakouts.
Don’t just rely on getting enough sleep to improve acne. It’s also important to support your skin by keeping your pillowcase clean and washing your face before heading to bed.
Sleep to reduce puffiness
Waking up with a puffy face and eyes doesn’t just look bad, it can feel uncomfortable too. That puffiness can be caused or exacerbated by a lack of quality sleep.
Facial puffiness is caused by fluid retention, which can be especially bad if you’re dehydrated. Certain medications and health conditions can affect fluid retention too. To limit fluid retention, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help, as will avoiding too much salty food, caffeine and alcohol. Good sleep can increase the blood flow to the skin which in turn helps reduce that puffiness. You may find sleeping on your back with a slightly deeper pillow at night helps prevent fluid build-up as you sleep.
The benefits of sleep for hair
It’s not just our skin that benefits from beauty sleep, our hair looks better too. Quality sleep increases the health of your hair with hormones such as melatonin helping increase hair growth.
Although sleep can help our hair grow healthily, it’s not so great for longer locks. A silk pillowcase can help prevent tangles and breakages no matter what your hair length, while tying back long hair and securing it with a soft hair tie such as a scrunchie will also help protect hair. A hair wrap is another way of helping reduce breakages and keep your hair looking at its best.
How does lack of sleep affect the skin?
There’s little doubt that a lack of sleep affects our skin and our hair. Miss out on enough sleep for even one or two nights and you’ll see dark circles and a duller complexion. But endure a longer-term lack of sleep and you’ll see dull, dry skin, acne, premature wrinkles and an early loss of elasticity, all of which will make you look prematurely older. Fortunately, we can do something about this by ensuring we get consistently good sleep each night.
How many hours is considered beauty sleep?
So how many hours of shut-eye should we be getting to put us at our glowing best? The answer is probably one you already know – we should be aiming for between 7-9 hours of good quality sleep. This amount of sleep lets you cycle through the sleep stages needed for healthier skin. All those processes such as collagen production and skin repair can only happen if your body goes through the right sleep cycles. Skip or interrupt those sleep cycles and you’ll start affecting the way you look.
Remember that as with all lifestyle improvements, beauty sleep is not a quick fix. One or two nights aren’t enough to make a difference. You need to commit to getting your beauty sleep every night – and after a couple of weeks you’ll start noticing a change in the way you look - and feel.
Tips for getting more beauty sleep
1. Keep it regular
Having a regular bedtime and waking time helps balance your circadian rhythms and make your sleep more effective. Follow the same pattern day in, day out and you’ll start finding it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
2. Be cool
Slightly lower temperatures, around 18˚C, are better for a good night’s sleep than we might expect. That’s because the sleep hormone, melatonin, increases in a cooler environment. So turn down the heating at night and open a window to cool things down if you need to. Using a lighter duvet may also help you keep your cool as may choosing lighter nightwear made with natural fibres.
3. Embrace the dark side
We sleep better in the dark - fact. It’s all down to melatonin again which increases in response to the dark. However, if you struggle to avoid light due to thin curtains or glowing devices in your bedroom, investing in an eye mask to help block out the light can work wonders.
4. Snack right
Good quality sleep comes better if we stay away from food in the hours before bed because of the way it can cause indigestion and acid reflux. If you do need to eat, try to avoid sugary, salty and carb-rich foods.
5. Easy with the alcohol
The odd tipple at night won’t cause big problems, but try to drink alcohol earlier in the evening. Not only does drinking close to bedtime affects the quality of your sleep and cause night-time trips to the loo, but it dehydrates you making you more likely to wake with puffiness or dull skin.
6. Limit your screen time
Screens at bedtime are a no-no. Instead of scrolling through your phone or watching TV, do something that doesn’t involve screens. Reading a book, listening to the radio or a podcast or even doing some knitting are great ways to relax without a screen in sight.
7. Exercise earlier
Exercise will certainly help you sleep better but keep vigorous exercise to earlier in the day. Morning workouts are best for sleep, but if the evening is the only time you can manage a workout, aim to finish by early evening so your heart rate and nervous system have a chance to settle down. Alternatively, choose a gentler form of exercise such as walking or yoga.
8. Give caffeine a curfew
Too much caffeine affects the quality of your sleep and can stop you from dropping off. Replace the caffeine after 2pm with caffeine-free drinks and you’ll notice the difference. Not only will it help the quality of your sleep, but you should notice the difference in your hydration levels which will improve your skin.
9. Take a bath…
…Or a warm shower in the hour or so before bed. This helps your body relax, encourages your body temperature to fall and (surprise!) helps increase melatonin production. No wonder it’s such a good way of preparing for a better night’s sleep.
10. Get mindful
Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga help reduce the inner chatter that can keep us awake at night. They’re also great at preventing the night-waking we get when feeling stressed or anxious.
Best products for beauty sleep
Enhance your beauty sleep with these blissful buys:
- A silk pillowcase to care for your hair and skin as you sleep.
- An eye mask to block out the light and help you sleep deeply all night.
- A silk hair wrap to help keep luscious locks free from breakages as you sleep.
- A temperature-regulating New Zealand Wool duvet to help you sleep at the perfect temperature all night.
- A Hungarian Goose Down pillow to support your head and neck at the right angle to avoid morning puffiness.
Beauty sleep FAQs
Is it bad to sleep with wet hair?
Yes! Hair is at its most fragile when it’s wet. This means that sleeping with wet hair can increase the risk of breakage. Even tying your hair while wet back causes mechanical breakage to your locks. Perhaps more importantly though, sleeping with wet hair can increase your risk of developing fungal infections on your scalp, eeek! It can also cause fungus and mould growth in your pillow. The damp, warm environment created by going to bed with wet hair is an ideal breeding ground for nasties – so dry your hair before you hit the hay!
Should you sleep with your hair up or down?
Sleepyheads with longer locks will find it easier to deal with their hair if they tie it up before heading to bed. This stops night-time tangles and prevents subsequent breakages. A hair wrap is ideal for keeping hair off your face and protected while sleeping. However, if a hair wrap’s not for you, a scrunchie – especially if made with silk – will be especially gentle on your hair.
What is the best time to sleep for skin?
The best time to sleep for our skin is at night, heading to bed before midnight. Science has found that our skin cells divide and repair between 11pm and midnight whether or not we’re asleep. If we are asleep at this time, our cells work harder giving us a better chance of glowing skin the following day.
Can my pillow cause acne?
Your pillow itself is unlikely to cause acne, but the pillowcase you use on it may do. That’s because sweat, oils and general grime from our faces and heads build up on pillowcases as we sleep. If you don’t wash and replace your pillowcase regularly, this build-up is transferred back to your skin, clogging pores and causing blemishes. This can happen to any pillowcase – cotton, linen, silk or synthetic. So, wash your pillowcase regularly – weekly is perfect and use a pillow protector for extra reassurance.
Does lack of sleep age the skin?
Yes it does. Skin depends on rest and recovery in the same way as our minds and the rest of our bodies. Skin is an organ and needs that sleep to repair itself. Without quality sleep, skin doesn’t get the chance to repair itself. As a result, it starts to lose elasticity and may become puffier and more wrinkled, making us look older than we actually are.