Getting enough sleep isn’t just beneficial for our physical and mental well-being; it can also improve the look and health of our skin. If you’ve heard the term “beauty sleep”, you might wonder if it’s just a phrase, but research shows that there’s a real connection between sleep and appearance.
For many people, great skin is a major confidence boost, and combined with the other holistic benefits of sleep, a good night of rest should have you looking and more importantly, feeling your best all-around. We’ll walk you through some helpful tips for getting the most out of your beauty sleep and how this can improve your skin health.
What is Beauty Sleep According to Science?
Humans sleep in stages. There are four stages in a full sleep cycle. Three of these stages are Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM), followed by a fourth and final stage called Rapid Eye Movement (REM). The first two stages of NREM sleep are a lighter rest when the muscles start relaxing and the heart rate, breathing, and eye movements all slow down. The third NREM stage, however, is called “deep sleep” or “slow-wave sleep.” This is a highly restorative period, and it is the phase when your body repairs itself and can have the greatest impact on your physical appearance.
When you sleep for eight hours a night, you should get the ideal ratio between slow-wave and REM periods. Both are important, but slow-wave rest is mostly responsible for the restorative properties of rest and as mentioned, most helpful for the appearance of your skin. Therefore, “beauty sleep” is, essentially, good quality sleep.
How to Get Beauty Sleep
While your primary focus should be getting enough hours of good sleep, there are additional ways you can enhance sleep’s restorative beauty benefits.
Skip Salty Bedtime Snacks
Salty midnight snacks are a huge culprit for inflammation and under-eye bags. While that bag of chips might satisfy your craving, if you’re already planning on resting longer for an improved appearance, consider a healthier alternative like an apple or a protein-rich snack to supplement your efforts. Salty foods1 could also contribute to more disturbed sleep and morning grogginess. So on all accounts, ditching the salt before bed is probably a good idea.
Learn More: Healthy Late Night Snacks
Alcohol dilates the blood vessels, meaning more swelling, specifically in the eyes or face. Alcohol is also notorious for reducing REM sleep and reducing the overall quality of rest. So, even if you find an evening drink relaxing, the effects on sleep are likely to increase your stress rather than the other way around.
“Chronic drinkers look older than their peers because they’ve been chronically dehydrated,” Dermatologist Erin Gilbert told Allure in an interview, “When you’re dehydrated, you’re not regenerating collagen as well, and lines in the skin tend to become deeper faster.”
If you’re used to a nightcap before bed, consider a glass of water instead in order to look and feel your best.
Use Skin Products at Night
Using skin care products at night can not only be part of a nightly routine that helps you wind down for bed but they can also prep your skin to appear more healthy and vibrant come morning. Along with staying hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, skin care products can help deliver and lock in extra moisture. Many skin care products are also designed to promote relaxation through calming ingredients, which could further enhance sleep.
Wash Your Face
While it’s probably never a bad idea to clean bacteria and pore-clogging dirt from your face, it’s especially important at night. Throughout the day, your skin attracts dirt, produces oil, and collects bacteria. If you don’t wash it off before bed, you can increase your risk for breakouts, not to mention you can transfer all that gunk to your pillowcase, so even if you wash your face the next day, the problem would remain.
Moisturize or Use a Humidifier
Fresh dewy skin is in, but during the winter or dry periods of the year, it can be pretty hard to attain because heaters often dry out the air, taking moisture from your hair and skin. To combat the dryness, consider using a humidifier in your bedroom or even using a humidifying facial treatment to restore moisture while you sleep.
Pick Your Best Position
Keep in mind that gravity can affect under-eye bags and wrinkles. Sleeping on your side or stomach could create sagging in loose skin, contributing to fine lines and bags. While sleeping on your back might be ideal, it’s not comfortable for everyone.
We recommend finding your best sleeping position that will keep you sleeping longer because your position won’t matter for beauty rest unless you’re asleep.
Change Your Sheets Often
Just like it’s important to remove your makeup before sleep to protect your skin, changing your sheets often should help remove acne-causing bacteria and allow you to rest worry-free. The truth is, you’ll probably need to start washing them more than you are now to improve your complexion. Most of the experts recommend weekly washings for sheets, maybe two weeks if you’re pressed for time occasionally.
While it may be a hassle, you’ll be doing the most for your skin, and who doesn’t love the feeling of sleeping on fresh sheets?
Quality Sleep Repairs the Body
When you get enough quality slow-wave rest, your body repairs itself, your blood pressure drops, and your energy is restored. This phase is also responsible for hormone regulation, which can affect your body’s muscle development, your stress hormones, and your body’s tendency to store fat. So, if you’re spending lots of waking hours at the gym, not getting enough sleep could be sabotaging those efforts.
The American Psychological Association2 states that poor quality rest can lead to tissue inflammation, meaning sleeping long enough may not be the key to your improved beauty if it’s not good quality rest. Deep sleep is important for healing after burns, surgery, or general illness. “Sleep is very important in healthy times, but in times of illness it becomes even more so,” Myke Federman, MD, from UCLA Health says.
Therefore, if you’re recovering from a cold, the flu, or even a sunburn, getting enough rest could be the key to recovery, and maybe better looks in the process.
Read More: How to Get Better Sleep
Beauty Sleep Benefits
We mentioned in the introduction that sleeping well can not only benefit you physically and mentally, but it can also enhance your facial appearance. Part of sleeping well is getting adequate time in deep sleep, which is the sleep phase most associated with physical restoration. When someone is well-rested, they’re more likely to exhibit a healthy and energized physical appearance. The following are specific benefits associated with beauty sleep.
Less Puffy Eyes
According to the Mayo Clinic3, puffy eyes can result from salty foods that make you retain water, a lack of proper rest, allergies, and sometimes genetics. Sometimes you just develop puffiness as you get older. However, since a lack of good rest could cause puffy eyes, sleeping well could help reduce the appearance of puffiness and under-eye bags, especially if you sleep on your back to prevent gravity from pulling down loose skin. Furthermore, avoiding salty foods and investing in hypoallergenic bedding might reduce puffiness even more.
When you sleep, your body releases the important growth hormone that’s important for collagen production4. Therefore, the better you rest, the more effective your body will be in keeping your skin plump and tight, preventing wrinkles without expensive and painful injections.
When you get enough rest, your body’s cortisol or stress hormone levels become more balanced, leading to better skin repair and fewer breakouts, according to a Swedish Study5. While some skin concerns are more likely related to bacteria or other issues, stress-related acne could be improved with better sleep.
Fewer Dark Circles
According to a study6 at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center, dark circles under the eyes are often a symptom of age, stress, and genetics but the appearance of the circles is often linked with exhaustion and poor rest. According to the research, lessened facial fat storage and skin elasticity can contribute to the appearance of circles.
As sleep can help increase collagen and keep your skin from aging prematurely, rest may help reduce the appearance of these marks without resorting to surgery, laser treatments, or injections, which are common cosmetic approaches to reducing dark circles.
More Energetic & Engaged
According to research published in Sleep Science7, the amount of sleep you get isn’t the only factor that influences your energy levels. The research shows that sleep satisfaction, or how good you feel about the sleep you get has a large influence on your energy levels throughout the day. So, when you feel well-rested, you’re also likely to feel more energized and engaged in your daily activities.
Does Sleep Make Everyone Else Prettier?
We’ve all had those days when we wake up after a long night and the world just seems dull, boring, even ugly or tedious. Conversely, we’ve probably all had those days when we wake up with a good attitude, kind hearts, and optimism. One recent Italian study shows our perception of the world around us has a lot to do with how well we are resting.
If you find yourself unable to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings or you’ve become judgemental regarding the looks of your friends and peers, you may just need some rest. According to the research, sleep affects your perception of the world around you, including your ability to experience aesthetics, which can even impact your empathy. This can alter the way you make judgments about beauty, surroundings, and even emotional relationships.
So it seems good beauty rest can help you be more beautiful on the inside as well, as you become more empathetic and appreciative of your surroundings.
As you can see, beauty sleep, which is essentially just good quality sleep, is excellent for your overall health and well-being. Sleeping well allows you to perform to the best of your abilities, and you reduce your risk of long-term health complications. Furthermore, these benefits shine through in your appearance. People who regularly prioritize good sleep are more likely to have healthier skin, including less puffiness, wrinkles, and dark circles. Most importantly, though, by allowing your body adequate time to rest and restore itself, you’ll feel good all around, giving you that happy, vibrant glow from the inside out.
- “Too Much Salt Is Bad — For Your Heart and Your Sleep”. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/salt-and-sleep/. 2020.
- Weir, Kristen. “The power of restorative sleep”. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/10/cover-sleep. 2017.
- “Bags under eyes”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified March 1, 2024. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bags-under-eyes/symptoms-causes/syc-20369927.
- Goesel Anson MD FACS, Goesel., Kane MD, Michael A.C., Lambros MD FACS, Val. “Sleep Wrinkles: Facial Aging and Facial Distortion During Sleep”. Aesthetic Surgery Journal. https://academic.oup.com/asj/article/36/8/931/2613967. 2016.
- Sundelin MSc, Tina., Lekander PhD, Mats., Kecklund PhD, Göran., Van Someren PhD, Eus J. W., Olsson PhD, Andreas., Axelsson PhD, John. “Cues of Fatigue: Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Facial Appearance”. Sleep. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/36/9/1355/2453883. 2013.
- Vrcek, Ivan., Ozgur, Omar., Nakra, Tanuj. “Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment”. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924417/. 2016.
- Engle-Friedman, Mindy. “The effects of sleep loss on capacity and effort”. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4608917/. 2014.
Lead Product Tester
Julia is the Lead Reviewer at Sleep Advisor, specializing in testing out mattresses and sleep accessories – she’s in the right line of work, because she loves to sleep.