Sleep deprivation has been associated with a myriad of health problems, ranging from obesity to cardiovascular disease, but, could it also be ageing your skin? There’s definitely plenty of research to back up this idea, as I investigate in today’s blog. Here, I’ll be discussing how poor sleep affects your skin and what you can do to ensure you’re getting a better night’s rest.
Sleep deprivation can create a whole host of problems when it comes to your health: it can lower your mood, cultivate unhealthy eating habits, weaken your immune system and even increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. With all these issues to consider, understandably, the effects of a poor night’s sleep on your skin are often overlooked.
However, more and more evidence is starting to shed light on the relationship between sleep and our skin’s ageing processes. In 2013, a study commissioned by Estée Lauder actually found that sleep deprivation could be playing an active role in prematurely ageing your skin.
In this study, 60 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 30-49 had their skin visually examined and were required to be involved in a number of non-invasive sleep challenges. Of these 60 women, around 50% suffered from poor sleep. It was found that this group, especially, exhibited noticeable signs of premature ageing when compared to their better-rested counterparts, with fine lines and uneven skin pigmentation being particularly visible.1
These results would appear to support the idea that, if you’re not getting enough sleep, your skin may start to age more rapidly. This idea is also supported by another study (this time conducted by UCLA researchers) which found that just a single night of poor sleep was all it took to encourage cellular ageing in older adults.2
So, why does sleep deprivation have this impact on our skin? Well, there could be a few possible factors at play, including:
Increased levels of cortisol
Read on to found out why these factors can be particularly disastrous for your skin when it comes to the appearance of ageing.
1. Increased levels of cortisol
When you think of cortisol, the chances are you associate this steroid hormone with stress; however, cortisol also helps to regulate your sleep cycle, existing in a delicate balance with melatonin, the sleep hormone.
When you wake up in the morning, cortisol will be secreted in order to make you feel more awake and alert and, as the day progresses, your levels will fluctuate; as daylight dwindles, melatonin will be released to encourage feelings of drowsiness.
If you’re sleep deprived, though, this delicate balancing act becomes disrupted which means that excess cortisol could be lingering in your bloodstream. This isn’t good news for your skin as, in addition to encouraging inflammation, cortisol is also capable of suppressing DHEA, the ‘youth hormone’. This, in turn, can promote premature ageing and make it more difficult for your skin to bounce back from the effects of free-radical damage.
I’ve already mentioned the role that cortisol can play in spurring on inflammation, but there are plenty of other studies that have identified a link between sleep deprivation and this problem.
Why is inflammation so bad for our skin? Believe it or not, in small amounts, inflammation is actually a vital part of your body’s healing processes, helping to eliminate potential infections and pathogens. Problems only really occur with inflammation when it becomes chronic.
Here, rather than helping to wipe out infections, it starts to damage important skin tissues and structural proteins like collagen, causing your skin to lose elasticity and become more sensitive to irritation. Inflammation can also encourage flare-ups if you suffer from an existing skin condition, such as eczema, acne or psoriasis.
3. Your skin won’t be able to hold as much moisture
Your skin’s ability to retain moisture can decline as you age, as your skin naturally becomes thinner and, therefore, more vulnerable to irritation. In women, this usually starts to become noticeable as they go through menopause.
In menopause, your levels of oestrogen, the ‘female’ sex hormone, will start to fall which, in turn, can affect your production of collagen. Since your skin needs plenty of collagen to remain firm and elasticated, when levels of this structural protein decline, wrinkles and fine lines can become more visible.
So, where does sleep deprivation fit in with this process? Well, remember earlier when I spoke about the study commissioned by Estée Lauder? During this study, researchers examined the efficacy of participant’s skin as a barrier, helping to reduce moisture loss in the face of stressors.
Those who slept better were found to be more capable of repairing damage when compared to poor sleepers, implying that sleep deprivation can influence how your skin retains moisture and its natural healing processes.
4. Your stress levels start to rise
In my blog, ‘Could stress be fuelling your skin condition?’, I examine the negative impact that stress can have on your skin: it makes you more vulnerable to inflammation, inhibits your production of collagen, leeches away vital nutrients and makes you more susceptible to irritation, infection and flare-ups.
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can increase your susceptibility to stress by affecting your cognitive function and energy levels. In turn, though, stress is also capable of disrupting your sleep patterns which can lead to the formation of a vicious cycle – stress keeps you awake at night and this loss of sleep then goes on to exacerbate stress!
While this can induce feelings of fatigue and even encourage more cravings, excess sugar can also lead to the formation of Advanced Glycation End products, or AGEs. These compounds are born when sugar molecules bond with fat or protein molecules, like collagen. They can affect your skin’s elasticity and promote the proliferation of harmful free-radical molecules.
Just like stress, though, sugary foods and sleep deprivation can exist in a bitter cycle, with one encouraging the other.
My self-care tip for keeping skin youthful:
In my video, I discuss a common food group which can help reduce the severity of wrinkles.
What can I do to improve my sleep patterns?
Sleep deprivation can definitely have an impact on ageing skin, so how do you go about tackling this issue? Well, the obvious answer would be to improve your sleep patterns, but this isn’t always a simple matter. Sleep, like your skin, can be impacted by an enormous range of issues, from digestive problems to stress.
Here at A.Vogel, we do have an impressive sleep section on our website over at A.Vogel Talks Sleep, where our Sleep Advisor Marianna offers plenty of guidance on a myriad of issues. Her blog, ‘How do you create a good sleep routine?’, is a good starting point if you’re looking to improve your sleep patterns more generally. It offers plenty of tips to improve your daily routine and diet, in addition to talking more about relaxation techniques to help you cope if stress is an issue.
There’s also our gentle sleep remedy, Dormeasan, which is formulated using a blend of Valerian and Hops. This is a good option if any underlying anxiety or stress could be depriving you of sleep as it can help to soothe the nervous system, making it far easier for you to drift into a deep, restful sleep.
Originally written 24 May 2019 (updated 12 June 2020).