Lack of sleep not only makes you feel lousy, but it puts extra stress on the body. Increasing levels of stress hormones mean one thing – wrinkles. And lots of them. Instead of battling nasty environmental factors like pollution and sunlight, at night our systems focus on repairing damage caused during the day, and without this key time period skin becomes more sensitive and irritated. During the day, the sympathetic system is in control – keeping blood flow near the core of the body. But whilst you’re dreaming away, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over – directing the flow of blood to the skin. This increase of oxygen in the skin’s cells allows receptors in the blood vessels to obtain amino acid molecules, which help drain toxins and fluids whilst building collagen. This means no puffiness and instead, supple, smooth skin. Not enough shut-eye also means higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes increased inflammation and the acceleration of aging and worsening of blemishes. It also reduces the skin’s ability to stay hydrated, making for a dull, lackluster complexion.
Researchers at Estée Lauder delved further into sleep’s impact on skin, and their recently commissioned research at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio tested 60 women aged between 30 and 49, with half the group having their sleep cut short. Using UV light exposure to monitor the results, the outcome was staggering – with those who had insufficient sleep showing twice the signs of skin aging than those who got a good night’s kip. They also discovered that those with good sleep patterns had 30% higher moisture retention levels and were able to recover faster from environmental factors that cause stress to the skin, including sun damage and pollution. Elma Baron, the lead scientist, revealed that their study “is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin aging. Sleep deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in the skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure.”
So how can you turn around your terrible sleep habits and boost your beauty regime? In a recent experiment conducted by Dr. Michael Mosley and sleep researcher Dr. Katharina Wulff at the University of Surrey, one of the biggest problems they found was the use of technology. This means watching TV or checking your emails before you turn out the light. Even sending a text message or a quick tweet can impact your night’s sleep, as electronics and technology stimulate the brain – switching it on, not off. Artificial ‘blue’ light prevents the release of the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin, and enhances alertness, not exactly what you want when you’re about to go to sleep. So avoid these activities and replace them with relaxing experiences like having a warm bath, reading a book or listening to music, which allow both our bodies and minds to slow down and start the resting process. So the next time you’re tempted to post a quick picture on Instagram or catch-up with the Kardashians, wait ‘til the morning. You’ll sleep, and look better for it.