From popular media to our mothers the night before prom, most of us have heard the age-old advice, “you need your beauty sleep.” But is there truth to the expression? Can sleeping make you more beautiful? While it probably won’t fix your road rage, make you funnier, or a nicer person without some effort on your part, the good news is, it could affect your physical appearance.
We’re all about better sleep, but let’s be clear: we’re not trying to sell it as a beauty product. Whether you’re shaped like an apple, a celery stick, have freckles or a golden tan, rest is essential for all of us. Whether it can make you more attractive won’t change that, but if it’s a side effect, we’re happy to pass along our findings.
Whether sleep can make you more beautiful depends on the definition of beauty, which varies over time, culture, and personal preferences. We know that there is more to physical attractiveness than thick eyelashes, full lips, and smooth skin, and of course, even that definition has evolved in the past ten years or so.
However, focusing on the biological factors, we’ve determined there are a few commonalities in most elements of physical beauty, and rest may have something to do with it after all. Anyone who’s taken a high school biology class has probably heard that physical attractiveness is all about producing healthy offspring, at least deep inside our brains. One Finnish study even highlights the increased reproductive success of more physically attractive women over their lifespans, not to be confused with increased fertility, or the ability to conceive.
While it might not be fair, the study indicates physical beauty is more beneficial to women than it is to men when it comes to reproductive success, and more attractive women tend to have more children. This probably isn’t surprising news to those of us who are the constant targets of marketing schemes aiming to simultaneously rip down our self-esteem while providing the solution.
However, if you’ve ever felt yourself wondering at 2 am why on earth our eyebrows have such a distinct effect on our perceived attractiveness, you can bet it has something to do with one of three factors most beauty products and treatments aim to accomplish.
The younger you are, ideally the more children you’ll be able to have, this goes for both men and women. So biologically at least, having younger features like fewer wrinkles, darker lashes, and fuller eyebrows may make you seem more attractive. One cross-cultural study shows that facial contrast (i.e. darker eyes, lips, brows) is an indicator for age regardless of ethnicity.
This means that though we know some women prefer the salt and pepper look and many men are still attracted to their browless sweethearts after fifty years of marriage, we determine age largely based on facial contrast. So if you can darken those lashes, brows, lips, and eyes, you’re bound to look younger and more biologically attractive.
While a good night's rest won’t change your hair color, it can lead to other age-related benefits that we’ll get to in a minute.
Many beauty treatments like full coverage makeup and skin treatments work to reduce the appearance of acne, blemishes, or redness in the skin. Biologically speaking, these could be a sign of underlying disease, illness, or stress, which could impact your ability to procreate or take care of your offspring someday. While we know a zit here and there isn’t going to compromise your parenting abilities, subconsciously at least, we’re all a little shallow.
One New Zeland study found evidence of this theory by asking heterosexual men to rate photos of women based on attractiveness. Before you become too disgusted to care about the outcomes, the purpose was to determine the effects of stress on physical beauty. They found that the more stressed a woman was, the less physically attractive the men found her.
Whether you decide to put any stock in this element of beauty, is of course up to you, but we’ll get to the facts about how sleeping right could help with some elements of stress and skincare a little later.
Anyone who has ever taken offense to the comment, “You look tired,” understands where we’re coming from here. This is where beauty rest comes in hot. According to NBC news, looking tired could make you appear less attractive because it makes you look sick.
Symptoms of poor rest like puffy eyes, bags, and increased stress contribute to an unhealthy and aging look. Just think about how many under eye color correctors you’ve either seen or used to try and cover up a long night of studying, partying, stressing or whatever you do instead of resting.
The good news is, there is something you can do about the fine lines, acne, and stress, without spending a fortune.
Celebrities throughout the ages have claimed they get their good looks from their beauty rest. While getting a full eight hours is certainly a luxury we can't afford, it could be a better alternative to expensive Microderm abrasions, chemical peels, and other painful treatments. So if sleep can help you feel more attractive, you’re probably wondering how.
Humans sleep in stages, and the first stage involves the in-between phase between being awake and sleeping. This refers to the part where your thoughts become random and disjointed, and then become detached from your surroundings.
Shortly after this period, you enter long-wave rest around the evening to late-night hours, usually, around 10 pm to 1 am, depending on when you get to sleep. This is the phase where your body repairs itself and likely has the greatest impact on your physical appearance.
According to Matthew Walker’s book, “Why We Sleep,” this phase is closely related to the circadian rhythm, meaning it only occurs in the first half of the night, so if you go to bed too late, you could miss it–even if you get eight hours.
When you sleep for eight hours at the right time, you get the ideal ratio between long-wave and REM periods. Both are important, but slow-wave rest is mostly responsible for the restorative properties of rest. So while it would be convenient if an afternoon nap could tighten up your skin and refresh your hormones, that’s not necessarily how it works.
Inspired by Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep
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 Association states that poor quality rest can lead to tissue inflammation, meaning sleeping for 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.
As previously stated, appearing physically ill is a large factor in physical attractiveness. So 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. We’ll get to some changes later on that can improve the quality of your rest to maximize its restorative properties, but for now, remember that good rest can seriously aid your health and physical healing.
If you’ve ever had your head turned by an incredibly attractive person but you couldn’t put your finger on what made them so beautiful, maybe you picked up on subtle cues that they’re well-rested. While it’s impossible to know what’s going on in someone’s life just by looking at them, there are some signs that a person has been catching those Z’s, and odds are it makes them more attractive to you.
From color correctors to under-eye ice packs, the beauty industry is all about providing complicated solutions to a simple problem. According to the Mayo Clinic, the cause is usually salty foods that make you retain water, a lack of proper rest, allergies, and sometimes genetics. Sometimes you just develop the puffiness as you get older, but we’re willing to bet that better long wave rest can help reduce the appearance of puffiness, bags, and dark circles in lots of us, especially if you sleep on your back to prevent gravity from pulling down loose skin.
When you sleep, your body releases the important growth hormone that’s important for collagen production. So 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 Study. While some skin concerns are more likely related to bacteria or other issues, stress-related acne could be improved with better sleep.
According to a study 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 the 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 the common cosmetic approaches to reducing dark circles.
According to research published in Sleep Science, 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.
Now that you know beauty rest is possible, at least as far as reducing the symptoms of sleep deprivation and preventing premature aging, you’re probably wondering how you can make the most of this free resource. We’ll guide you through a few tips for better sleep for better appearance while encouraging you to keep in mind these changes should also just improve your overall health.
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 improved appearance, consider a healthier alternative like an apple or a protein-rich snack to supplement your efforts. According to Livestrong, salty snacks could also contribute to stomach aches and longer sleep latency, or the time it takes to fall asleep. So on all accounts, ditching the salt before bed is probably a good idea.
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, according to Psychology Today. 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.”
So if you’re used to a nightcap before bed, consider a glass of water instead if you’re trying to look and feel your best.
If you’re like many of us, you have a drawer, cupboard, or bag somewhere filled with almost empty or long forgotten beauty products. From face masks to serums and spot treatments, many of us have fallen victim to a good testimonial or Instagram ad. The good news is, these products might not be defective, you could just be using them at the wrong time.
According to an article from Scientific American, we can absorb nutrients, vitamins, and hormones through our skin, and what better time to do so than while we sleep? Our skin will be free from makeup and sunscreen that clogs pores, and likely won’t become damaged or sweat from being in the hot sun. According to Byrdie, these factors combine to allow your skin to breathe.
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 transfer all that gunk to your pillowcase, so even if you wash your face the next day, the problem would remain.
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.
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.
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 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 in fresh sheets?
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.
According to a New York Post article, the average American woman spends over $50,000 on cosmetics in her lifetime. Considering that about a third of that money is spent trying to combat the effects of poor sleep, we’re happy to share that the research suggests beauty sleep can affect physical attractiveness, without costing you thousands of dollars over your lifetime.
Interestingly enough, the research indicates that despite youthfulness, women in their twenties are spending the most money on their faces. So if you’re prioritizing other elements over your sleep, keep in mind that you’ll likely make up for it in money spent over your lifetime.
Ultimately, we would encourage everyone to put as much effort into loving themselves as they do into their daily beauty routine. While there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to look your best, we hope it’s not the only reason you consider healthy living habits and good sleep.