It’s Official: Beauty Sleep *Is* Real, According to the Experts
Main image – Bratco/Stocksy
When someone says they need to get their beauty sleep, you probably wouldn’t be the only one to pass it off as a witty excuse for an early night (or perhaps a cheeky way to get out of a certain date in the diary).
First coined by author Charles White in his 1828 book Herbert Milton, he used the term ‘beauty sleep’ to describe women sending their daughters to bed before 10pm, so that they could get theirs.
But believe it or not, it might not just be a throwaway expression after all. It seems there is concrete evidence that proves getting your ‘beauty sleep’ does actually contribute to healthier skin.
Keep scrolling to discover more truth behind it, as well as how to maximise the skin benefits of getting plenty of rest.
With tips and thoughts from board certified dermatologist Madeleine Gantz, athlete and owner of Body + Soul Julia Shih, and board certified physician assistant in dermatology Merry Thornton, here’s how getting your nightly sleep quota might just be the best medicine for your skin.
Is beauty sleep real?
All signs point to yes, and here’s why. “How you take care of your body on the inside reflects on the outside and getting enough sleep, particularly deep sleep, is how your body repairs and restores itself,” says Julia.
“Most people don’t realise that your skin is the largest organ of your body, so when you wake up with puffy eyes and dark circles, it’s a sign that you may be neglecting your overall health.”
A 2017 study into the benefits of sleep in relation to your appearance had 25 participants photographed after 2 days of sleep deprivation, as well as 2 days of normal sleep and were then rated by 122 people.
“Recent findings show that acute sleep deprivation and looking tired are related to decreased attractiveness and health, as perceived by others.” Brutal!
Lack of sleep can affect the skin barrier too. “Several studies of prolonged sleep deprivation suggest a break in skin barrier function and mucous membranes,” said one 2010 study. “Thus, we hypothesised that lack of sleep as well as other types of stress can impair skin integrity.”
In fact, this conclusion taken from a 2015 study sums up the beauty sleep debate perfectly. “…chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of intrinsic ageing, diminished skin barrier function and lower satisfaction with appearance.”
The benefits of beauty sleep
While we’re sleeping, the skin regenerates itself. It’s as if the minute we fall into a deep sleep, it finally gets the green light to hit the ‘refresh’ button after a long day of enduring pollution, makeup, SPF, UV and all the tugging and touching in between.
(I imagine it to be a little bit like when the kid in Toy Story leaves his bedroom and all the toys come to life.)
“Sleep is so restorative,” says Merry. “Your body repairs its cells and tissues at night. This makes nighttime an ideal time to apply creams that work to repair the skin such as those with peptides and growth factors.”
Merry adds, “Fibroblasts are the type of cells that produce collagen (the building blocks of the skin that give it support) so they will be more efficient with rest. The elasticity of the skin is also improved with sleep. When people do not get enough sleep, it stresses the body contributing to dark circles, wrinkles and hair loss.”
5 ways to maximise the benefits of sleep
Ok, so if beauty sleep is a good thing, how can we maximise the benefits even more?
1. Get enough hours
So how many should we should be getting, to justify it being called ‘beauty sleep’? “Generally, adults should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep,” advises Julia. “However on top of how much total sleep you get, you want to make sure you get enough deep sleep.” This is the kind I was referring to when the skin finally gets the go ahead to start working on regenerating itself. And it has a fancy name too.
“Also known as non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), it’s when your body repairs and rejuvenates, including your bones, muscles, organs and immune function,” Julia continues. “You want to aim for at least 20% of your sleep to be deep sleep.”
But how? “Ways include making sure you don’t go to bed too late, putting down your devices at least two hours before bedtime and being mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake which can disrupt your sleep cycles,” she explains.
2. Adopt a brilliant skincare routine
It also helps to have a great skin regime too so that your skin can do its best work while you’re in dreamland. Make sure you’ve double cleansed to get rid of every trace of makeup and dirt from the day.
You could even apply an overnight wrinkle patch too, to really get the most out of your regenerative time. Frownies Forehead & Between Eyes Wrinkle Patches (£28.95, Frownies UK or $24.95, Frownies US) not only have a genius name, but these patches help to smooth lines and hold the muscles flat. They may not be the most attractive but they are surprisingly effective – you have to try it to believe it.
PRO TIP: Using thicker, more luxurious serums and moisturisers before you go to bed will give your skin the best chance of properly soaking up ingredients like retinol, ceramides and niacinamide. These are all excellent ingredients for anti-ageing and will penetrate deeper while you sleep.
3. Use a silk or satin pillowcase
Not only are they super soft and comfortable, but a silk pillowcase helps to reduce the amount of expression lines you gather at night since your skin glides over the fabric more easily, rather than getting bunched up when you sleep on your side.
They will also help to improve your skin’s hydration levels as silk and satin don’t absorb as much moisture as cotton. This applies to your serums and moisturisers too.
4. Sleep on your back
This position imitates standing up straight so it’s healthier for the spine and beats having your head turned into a side position all night long. The more comfortable you are, the better you’ll sleep and the better your skin will look the next morning.
5. Blitz your zits while you catch some ZZZs
Use your sleep time to treat breakouts with a humble pimple patch, which have been shown to reduce healing time.
Zitsticka Killa Clarifying Microdart Patch Kit (£27, Cult Beauty UK) contains 24 microdart patches to help calm unwelcome new arrivals overnight.
Alternatively, pimple patch makers Starface have mastered the art of embracing the zit with their amazingly playful star-shaped stickers (from $10.99 for 32 stickers, Starface US). Ranging from simple hydrocolloid patches to salicylic-acid soaked stickers, you’ve probably seen these stars gracing the faces of everyone from Hailey Bieber to Florence Pugh.
So, next time you hear someone saying they need their beauty sleep, you’ll know that it’s a real thing. And when you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense.
Without sleep, our skin wouldn’t be able to regenerate or repair and things like dark circles, puffiness and dullness would be an everyday occurrence.
Build a brilliant nighttime skincare regime to get the most out of your sleep time, ensure you’re getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night and put down your phone way before bedtime. Easier said than done, I know. But I dare you to try it! Your skin might just look better for it.
Meet the experts
Madeleine Gantz, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist with degrees from Lafayette College and Columbia University before she continued her training at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and practices dermatology from Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas.
Julia Shih is an athlete and owner of of Body + Soul, a vegan and chemical-free beauty brand.
Merry Thornton, PA-C, is Board Certified Physician Assistant in Dermatology, as well as a licensed skincare expert and the founder of Element Medical Aesthetics in New Canaan