Just one more episode of your current Netflix obsession. Just one more work email to answer. Just one more drink with the girls. There’s nothing a good cup of coffee won’t fix, right? Unfortunately, wrong. Over time, a sleep deficit sleep could really affect your skin, mood, weight and even cause more general harm to your health.
When it comes to beauty, sleep really is the fountain of youth. When you get more than 7 hours, your body repairs and recovers itself, leading to a multitude of benefits for your appearance. If you’re getting fewer than 6 hours, it’s likely affecting your looks in a number of unwanted ways. Here are the key benefits sleep brings:
1. Sleep = Less Cortisol
Study after study proves that sleep deprivation makes the body create more of the stress hormone cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to increased stress and inflammation in the body, hurting your skin’s quality. Increased cortisol also leads to an increase in fat deposition in the abdomen, as well as intense cravings for high-energy carbohydrates, which further deteriorate your skin health by breaking down collagen stores.
2. Sleep = Slower Aging Process
During deep (REM) sleep, which only occurs during certain parts of the sleep cycle, the rise in growth hormones helps damaged cells to be repaired. Without the deeper phases of sleep that can only happen during a good night of sleep - over seven hours - this repair process won't occur. As such, daily small breakdowns in the skin accumulate instead of being reversed during the night, resulting in more noticeable signs of ageing, including sagging.
3. Sleep = Less Wrinkles
Part of the repair process, our skin also makes new collagen when we sleep, which prevents the formation of lines and wrinkles. According to WebMD, studies have found that getting only 5 hours a night can lead to twice as many fine lines as sleeping 7 hours would. A tired schedule also leaves skin drier, which can make lines more visible.
4. Sleep = More Glow
When you cut back on sleep, your complexion will start to look lacklustre, pale and lifeless. While you snooze, the body boosts blood flow to the skin, which means you wake up to a healthy rosy glow.
5. Sleep = Brighter Eyes
Even we’ll admit it - there’s only so much that the best makeup can do for the dark circles that can occur under the eye after a night of too few ZZZs. This happens because lack of sleep tends to cause the blood vessels under the thin skin of the eyes to dilate, creating a dark tint. Luckily, the effects are reversed when you start getting more than 7 hours again.
6. Sleep = Better Diet
Here’s a bonus beauty benefit unrelated to skin, but one worth understanding. Do you ever notice that on the days after poor sleep, you’re starving all day and need almost constant feeding to function? Well, there are two hormones responsible for this – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is involved in the regulation of appetite, metabolism and calorie-burning. The chemical tells your brain when you're full, when it should start burning calories and when it should create energy for the body to use. During sleep, leptin levels increase, telling your brain you have plenty of energy for now, and there's no need to trigger hunger or the burning of calories. When you don't get enough sleep, you end up with insufficient leptin in the body, which in turn makes your brain think you don't have enough energy for your requirements - hence the always-hungry feeling. The other hormone related to sleep and weight is the grim-sounding ghrelin. The purpose of ghrelin is the exact opposite of leptin: It tells your brain that you need to eat, when it should stop burning calories and when it should store energy as fat. During sleep, levels of ghrelin decrease, because sleep requires much less energy than being awake. People who don't sleep enough end up with too much ghrelin in their system, so the body thinks it's hungry and it needs more calories, and it stops burning those calories because it thinks it’s deprived. Bottom line: if you’re making an effort to eat better, a lack of sleep will seriously derail your efforts.
‘But how’, you ask? We know - our modern, multi-faceted lives are making it increasingly difficult to get sufficient sleep. (And there are so many darn good Netflix shows.) Stay tuned for our follow-up piece on the ultimate list of sleep hacks.