The beauty industry is part of the big B club, i.e., it’s worth billions. The US cosmetic market is worth a staggering $62.46 billion, and sales in face skincare alone are projected to reach $28.16B this year. (1,2) Given society’s fascination with looking young as long as possible, these numbers aren’t all that surprising.
Here’s the thing – and you may find this surprising. One of the most powerful tools for healthy aging, especially when it comes to your face, is absolutely free. It’s beauty sleep. Are you getting yours? Because it’s worth its weight in gold, and we’re telling you why and how in today’s article.
Ready to tap into the power of nature’s best beauty elixir? Here’s everything you need to know about beauty sleep and, specifically, the benefits of sleep for skin that glows.
What is beauty sleep?
What is it really? Honestly, it’s not just sleep – beauty sleep is quality sleep, which is when our bodies enter a state where the skin, our body’s largest organ, has the opportunity to recover from daytime damage, such as exposure to UV rays or pollution.
Basically, when we sleep, our stress hormone (cortisol) goes down, our sleep hormone (melatonin) goes up, and our body and skin enter repair mode. So, it’s an easy jump to link beauty to sleep. We’ll spotlight the scientific effects of sleep on skin health more later, but first, a little history about the term “beauty sleep.”
A little history.
The concept of beauty sleep dates back to the early mid-19th century (i.e., Merriam-Webster cites mention in Charles White’s 1828 book, Herbert Milton) when it was thought that sleep in the hours before midnight enhanced health and beauty. Since then, the beauty sleep meaning has evolved into a tongue-in-cheek phrase for a good night’s sleep that leaves a person looking and feeling refreshed upon waking.
However, does getting a lot of sleep really make you look younger? Let’s check the science.
To answer his question, we have to examine what’s actually happening to our bodies during sleep. What happens at night that promotes healthy aging? Let’s start by examining the body’s sleep cycles and related processes to help explain how sleep and skin health are related.
When we sleep, our body experiences different stages of sleep, all of which are important to the body’s healthy function. Here’s a broad yet simple overview of what the body is doing during each cycle of sleep over 7-8 hours, which is the recommended amount for adults each night.
During the first three hours of sleep, your body starts producing the human growth hormone (somatotropin) from the pituitary gland. As we age, this hormone helps with the maintenance of youthful and radiant skin. Without this hormone release, the skin cannot repair from daily damage, which can accelerate the physical signs of aging.
Next, around the middle two hours of sleep, the body increases melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the body’s circadian rhythm (i.e., sleep/wake patterns). Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from damaging free radicals.
Finally, the body enters the active REM stage of sleep during the final three hours. This stage is when the body’s cortisol levels (i.e., the stress hormone) will decrease, and the skin’s temperature drops to its lowest point. As this happens, the muscles relax and become immobile, which gives the skin its deepest recovery of the night.
Tips for better beauty sleep.
As you can see, sleep is critical to healthy aging, and there can be unfortunate physical side effects, like the dreaded sleep deprivation face (i.e., dull skin, puffy eyes). Basically, our body perceives the loss of sleep or lack of quality of sleep as stress – and those stress signals can cause breakouts3 and make skin less capable of trapping moisture, slowing down skin cell turnover.
Wait – does sleep help with acne? Yes, you read that right. The National Library of Medicine published a study demonstrating a correlation between quality sleep and acne severity3. So, even if you still aren’t entirely convinced that the benefits of sleep for skin health are legit, science is busy compiling evidence to support the value of beauty sleep.
The good news is that it’s never too late to prioritize sleep – especially when vanity is involved, right?! Getting a better night’s sleep to achieve the many benefits of sleep for skin is possible and can help you avoid adverse physical side effects like long-term sleep deprivation face4. So, here are our top tips for achieving better restorative beauty sleep.
Practice healthy sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene involves the practices and habits contributing to a good night’s sleep, including everything you do throughout the day that can affect your sleep at night. We did a deep dive into sleep hygiene in an earlier blog post, but the essentials of healthy sleep hygiene include:
- Save the bed for sleep and sex only.
- Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine (ex: reading, baths, or stretching).
- Ensure your bedroom is cool and dark at night.
- Avoid caffeine after lunch.
- Lighten up on evening meals and avoid pre-bed snacks.
- Don’t drink too much right before bed – especially not alcohol.
- Turn off electronic devices before you go to sleep.
- Go to bed when you are tired.
Stick to a sleep schedule.
Part of sleep hygiene involves establishing a bedtime routine and sticking to it. This includes when you go to sleep. If you decide to hit the pillow at 10 p.m., go to bed every night at that hour when possible. There isn’t anything to gain from staying up late just because it’s a weekend. Your body still needs rest, and it’s easier to get quality sleep when it’s routinely a priority.
Ultimate face-saving sleep position.
In terms of sleep positions, everyone is different. It pretty much comes down to comfort. The best position to save face during sleep, literally, is on your back. Side or stomach sleeping causes your face to press against the pillow, which can cause fine lines and wrinkles. If you aren’t a back sleeper, consider retraining your body to sleep in this position for better skin protection.
Prioritize healthy habits.
There are plenty of ways to improve your overall health, and perhaps the easiest is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine. This doesn’t mean you have to be vegan and work out for hours a day to avoid sporting a sleep-deprived face. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Just begin with getting outside and moving every day, like riding a bike or walking the dog. The sunshine will boost your vitamin D, and the movement will keep your muscles loose and supple.
As for diet, try opting for whole, all-natural foods over processed foods whenever possible. This can begin with simple swaps, like an apple, over a packaged cereal bar for a snack. Also, limit your intake of refined sugars, caffeine, and alcohol.
Now that you know the true value of beauty sleep, what will you do to achieve it? We have a ton of material and research available about getting better sleep, so visiting our resources page is a good start. Sleep is great, but quality sleep is better – and we’re here to help you make it a beauty-boosting priority. Cheers to better sleep, friends!