The Science Behind Beauty Sleep
The benefits of sleep on our health have been proven extensively, and should be taken very seriously. However, for those who persist to burn the candle at both ends and place sleep at the bottom of their priorities, appealing to their vanity might be the trick to conveying the importance of sleep, and some of the consequences of a lack thereof. One of the least popular or pleasant expressions to hear is “you look tired”, with good reason.
The phrase “beauty sleep” was coined in the mid 19th century to describe the sleep one gets before midnight, believed to be the most restorative for health and beauty. It implies that sleep is a vehicle for attractiveness and that to achieve optimum beauty, one must get adequate rest. Exactly how does sleep affect our appearance? Let’s discuss the affects too-little sleep can have on looks, and how adequate sleep helps us to look our best.
Skin & Hair
When you don’t get enough sleep, the blood vessels in your face dilate, which causes those telltale dark circles (or bags) under the eyes. Capillaries tighten, blocking the flow of nutrients to the skin and scalp, thus causing skin and hair look dull. However, the right amount of healthy, proper sleep does the opposite. During sleep, the body goes into repair mode, and that includes skin renewal: growing new skin cells to replace the older ones. Part of this process has to do with the production during sleep of the human growth hormone, an ingredient in collagen. Collagen is a protein that provides structure, elasticity and firmness if the skin. This is what makes skin look younger, more supple and glowing. Melatonin is also produced during sleep, and acts as an antioxidant which protects the skin from sun damage and supports cell growth, further supporting the appearance of healthy skin. Sleep also gives your face muscles a chance to fully relax, softening harsh lines. When considering how proper sleep contributes to healthy, radiant skin, it is clear that “beauty sleep” is quite literal.
Sleep can make you beautiful in more ways than just healthy skin and hair, and not enough healthy sleep can wreak havoc on the body and one’s appearance. In relation to beauty, sleep plays an important role in weight and body composition. This has to do with the relationship between sleep and a few key hormones: ghrelin, leptin, and cortisol. Ghrelin is the hormone that signals to your brain that you are hungry and need to eat, and when you are sleep deprived, your body produces more of it. On top of that, your body produces less of the hormone leptin, which tells your body that you are full. It’s obvious how this can affect your eating habits when you are tired. While that is happening, your under slept body also produces more cortisol, a stress hormone that tells the body to conserve energy, which translates to storing it as fat. As if these hormones weren’t doing enough damage, consider that the lethargic feeling that comes with being tired means you are less likely to exercise, and more likely to rely on food and (often sugary) caffeinated drinks for energy. It becomes a vicious cycle. Therefore, quality sleep plays a vital role in having a healthy body-weight and keeping off excess fat.
When you are under slept and tired, it shows beyond the surface of the skin. It’s hard to fake it when you’re not feel 100%, the irritableness, stress and tension you feel when you are under slept will show through your facial expressions and demeanor. Not a good look. Lack of sleep puts your body under physical stress, which increases stress hormones (other than cortisol, as previously discussed) which cause inflammatory skin conditions to worsen, such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. For anyone who suffers from these conditions, aggravating them is the last thing you want to do. Stress and sleep often have a complicated, compounding relationship. It is important to monitor stress and find ways to achieve a sufficient amount of sleep in order to look (and feel) your best.
Beauty sleep really means the right amount (usually 7 to 9 hours) of uninterrupted, quality sleep to support our bodies and achieve optimum health. Of course, what goes on inside the body is more important than physical appearance, however what shows on our faces and outer appearance is a reflection of how healthy we are on the inside, both physically and mentally. Sleep is an essential element in our lives that can either hurt us if we don’t get enough, or help us thrive. A happy, healthy person is a beautiful person.