Does Sleep Affect Your Skin?

Does Sleep Affect Your Skin? It sure does and it also has an impact on how you age. This is because your skin produces new collagen while you’re sleeping. Collagen is the major structural protein in the skin, and is responsible for maintaining firmness and elasticity, which prevents wrinkles and slows down the aging process. Your mother was right when she said you need your beauty rest.

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Sleep And Renewal

The body repairs and renews the cells of the body as we sleep, and this includes the cells in our skin. Have you ever noticed how your face looks puffy when you haven’t had enough sleep or haven’t slept well? The puffiness, sallowness, and dark circles under your eyes tell the sad tale of what didn’t happen during the night.

The parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of the autonomic nervous system responsible for repair and relaxation, is dominant at night, promoting healing and restoration. Because the tissues and organs of your body don’t require the amount of blood flow they do during the day, increased circulation is directed to the cells of your skin during the night. This increased blood flow carries vital nutrients and life-giving oxygen, rejuvenating the skin.

Repair mechanisms go into full throttle at night, draining fluid, and eliminating toxins. During this rest phase, amino acids are used to build collagen. If you don’t sleep well, or are chronically sleep deprived, these repair mechanisms can’t do their job, and you’ll see it in your skin. It will appear dull and lackluster due to lack of blood flow, and toxin elimination.

Sleep deprivation also affects immune function and inflammatory mechanisms in the body. If you suffer from inflammatory skin disorders, such as, eczema, atopic dermatitis, or psoriasis, a lack of sleep will exacerbate these conditions.

Skin And Hydration


During sleep, the body rebalances hydration, and the skin is able to recover the moisture it lost throughout the day. The skin must have adequate hydration for cell turnover and proliferation. A lack of moisture in the skin leaves it vulnerable to damage and infections. When the cells in the skin are sufficiently hydrated, the skin is protected from environmental and chemical toxicity.

Aggravating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis are exacerbated by dehydration, as is acne, because too little moisture allows bacteria to build up, leading to breakouts.

Properly hydrated skin will look healthier, plumper, and more radiant. I like using hyaluronic acid in my skincare because it facilitates water retention in the skin. Skin that is dehydrated will be flaky, won’t appear as firm, wrinkle more rapidly. Hydration is also essential for the skin’s ability to release toxins. Water dilutes the toxins so they can be eliminated through the skin.

As you might have guessed, we lose moisture in our skin as we age. Counteract this loss by drinking enough water throughout the day, reducing your toxin load, protecting your skin from UV rays, and using skincare products with hyaluronic acid to retain moisture.

[Read More: Hyaluronic Acid The Ultimate Hydrator]

Antioxidants Reduce Free Radicals

Protective antioxidants are produced in skin cells during sleep. Antioxidants fight free-radical damage caused by UV rays, environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and pollution. Free radicals are molecules that lack an electron, making them unstable and reactive. These reactive molecules then go on to damage healthy cells, through the process of oxidation.

Have you ever noticed how an apple becomes brown a few hours after slicing it? Or how metal can can rust? What you’re seeing are the effects of oxidation. I know it’s not a pleasant thought, but this process also happens  inside your body, and on your skin.

Sleep deprivation causes free-radical damage, destroying both collagen and elastin, the two main protein components of the skin. This is how free radicals cause premature aging of the skin, and accelerated aging, in general. You’ll see more fine lines and wrinkles in those who have a lot of free-radical damage caused by oxidation.

Antioxidants And Free Radicals

Antioxidants prevent and mitigate this damage by neutralizing free radicals. Vitamin C is a great antioxidant. I take it internally and use it topically to help repair. and protect my skin from these harmful scavengers.

If you want to age well, do all you can to prevent oxidation in your skin. Eat a whole-foods diet to ensure you’re getting a daily intake of antioxidants, clean up your environment to keep your toxin load to a minimum, and supplement with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, and the minerals selenium and zinc.

Green powders are a great way to boost your antioxidant intake. Here’s one that dissolves easily in water, and doesn’t taste horrible. Herbs are also a great way to supplement your diet with antioxidants. Flavor your food with cloves, cinnamon, parsley, basil, cumin, and turmeric to boost your their nutritional value.

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Growth Hormone And Sleep

Growth hormone stimulates new skin-cell production. It also is essential for collagen synthesis and slows protein degradation. It is only released during sleep, so if you’re chronically sleep deprived, your skin won’t receive the rejuvenating effects associated with growth hormone.

This hormone keeps the skin thick by boosting collagen synthesis. This is why thick skin doesn’t wrinkle as quickly as thin skin; it has more collagen. Growth hormone also increases skin thickness, indirectly, by increasing IGF-1 levels. Higher levels of this hormone increase cell proliferation in both the dermis and epidermis.

IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor, is a polypeptide hormone similar to insulin. It is produced in the liver, and is also important for stimulating growth, and building and repairing muscles. In fact, growth hormone can be measured by testing IGF-1 as it remains relatively constant, unlike growth hormone secretion, which is pulsatory in nature.

Sleep And Cortisol

Lack of sleep sends signals to the body that it is under stress, causing the release of cortisol. This stimulates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Remember how I said there are two branches of this system, and you want to be in the parasympathetic branch at night, which promotes relaxation and repair?

When chronically elevated, cortisol degrades collagen in the skin. This is the opposite of what growth hormone does as these hormones oppose each other. Get your levels tested here.

Cortisol should be high enough in the morning so you feel like getting out of bed, and low at night so you can relax and sleep. This is how a healthy circadian rhythm operates. When cortisol is low at night like it should be, growth hormone is activated. It can then perform its magical functions of healing, repairing, and strengthening cells and tissues. If, however cortisol remains high at night, bid farewell to growth hormone.

Have you ever noticed how fitful and restless your sleep is when you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally stressed? You go to bed exhausted, and wake up feeling the same way. Unhealthy levels of cortisol are to blame. This scenario is destructive to your skin, and you’ll notice more sagging, dryness, wrinkles, and acne flareups.

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Sleep And Stress

A vicious cycle develops when you can’t sleep due to high cortisol. Here’s how it works: Sleep deprivation causes cortisol to remain elevated, this in turn, causes more sleep deprivation, leading to even higher levels of cortisol.

This cycle is difficult to break, and is one reason people get addicted to sleep medications. It’s terrible not to sleep, and most of us, out of desperation, will find ways to sleep if we can’t do it on our own. This process doesn’t just affect your skin, the entire body suffers.

High Cortisol Effects

  • Imbalances hormones: High levels of stress hormones disrupt hormonal balance, which is necessary for smooth, clear skin.
  • Digestive disturbances: High cortisol breaks down the lining of the GI tract leading to inhibited digestion, and poor mineral absorption. Minerals are essential for proper skin development and maintenance. They help antioxidants work more effectively, and protect the skin from sun damage.
  • Neurotransmitters: These important chemicals in the brain affect your mood, mental focus and clarity, energy levels, and, of course, sleep. When they are off, you’ll notice differences in how you feel in all of these areas.
  • Lowered immunity: Chronic high cortisol weakens the immune system and increases inflammation. It also causes high blood pressure, decreased bone density, and muscle breakdown.
  • Increased body weight: High cortisol leads to weight gain, particularly in the mid-section, by increasing both appetite and insulin levels.
  • Blood sugar imbalances: Glucose dysregulation, caused by chronically elevated cortisol, leads to hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances, and is a precursor to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
  • Decreased thyroid function: Chronic cortisol elevations suppress thyroid function causing many deleterious effects in the body, including dry skin, poor digestion, cognitive impairments, and weight gain.
  • Skin irritation: High cortisol is irritating to the skin, causing easy bruising and stretch marks.

The aging process already takes place every day so while accelerate the process?. You’ll visibly notice the signs of stress on your skin because it’s more obvious than what’s happening inside your body.

IPhone Sleep Apps

Although, sleep should come naturally, it often doesn’t play out that way in the real world. Technology can help matters so let’s use it to our advantage. Here are five iPhone apps you might find helpful:

Sleep Genius: This one will put you back five bucks, but it’s cheaper than medication. Sleep Genius uses neurosensory algorithms, creating sounds to guide your brain through the entire sleep cycle. Not only will you fall asleep more easily, you’ll also sleep more soundly, and awaken feeling more refreshed. If it’s good enough for NASA, it’s worth checking out!

Sleep Well: With over 20 years of experience in hypnotherapy, Glenn Harrold created Sleep Well, a free app, to enhance sleep quality. Offering more than 80 recordings, you’re sure to find one that fits your needs. Be sure and check out the recording, specifically for anxiety, which is often caused by high cortisol. This app also has a premium version.

Long Deep Breathing: Slow, measured breathing, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and deep sleep. You’ll also feel calmer and have less anxiety when you learn how to breathe properly. This app helps you practice this skill every night to assure you’re sleeping more soundly. Oh, and it’s almost free – you’ll pay just 99 cents.

White Noise: If you’re a light sleeper, you’ll like this app. Block out annoying distractions and reduce stress by listening to the restful sounds of nature. White Noise even offers an alarm clock that gradually awakens you. Best of all, it’s free!

Sleep Cycle App: This app tracks your sleep cycles, and you’ll be able to determine how much deep sleep you’re getting during the night. Sleep cycles are important in order to feel completely rested after a full night’s sleep.

This app is a good way to attune yourself to your own circadian rhythms, and you’ll learn how your sleep quality affects your mood and energy levels. Available for iPod touch, and iPad, you can download it free on iTunes. There are also paid versions that offer additional features.

Key Points

I hope I have convinced you how important sleep is, to not only look good and age well, but to have enough energy to tackle all you want to achieve during your day. Thank goodness there is a night in between each day when our bodies and brains can repair and rejuvenate. After the stressful demands of daily life, it’s nice to have a restorative respite.

If you want to look and feel your best, make sleep a priority. It really is non-negotiable if you want to function optimally and age well. It’s called “beauty rest” for a reason!

Is your skin negatively impacted when you don’t sleep well? What symptoms plague you when you’re chronically sleep deprived? Let me know in the comments:)



6 thoughts on “Does Sleep Affect Your Skin?”

  1. I have such a strange sleep schedule. It’s been the same for years. I always have to wait until really late to go to sleep because I never sleep more than 4-5 hours a night. When it starts to get to me really bad, I have to take melatonin in order to get a somewhat normal for me sleep pattern back.

    It sucks being someone who is constantly thinking, I believe this is the reason I have trouble falling and staying asleep.

  2. Oh I know that I do love to sleep! LOL I did not realize how many benefits there really are when we are sleeping. I do know that when I don’t sleep well, which usually is for more than one night, I can see it in my face. I hadn’t really thought about what it does to the rest of me. Interesting information, thank you!

    • I can see it my face too when I don’t sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation does a number on the skin. I’m one of those people that needs a solid eight hours of sleep every single night or I just don’t function well! Thanks for commenting!

  3. I am another historically bad sleeper! Your post really re-emphasizes the fact that I need to really work on regulating my sleeping cycle through better bedtime habits. I definitely notice a difference in my skin when I sleep less (more acne prone and eye bags), and it’s cool to see the scientific reasons behind that here. Thanks for the reminder of another reason why sleep is so important!


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