Have you been skimping on your beauty sleep lately? Turns out that puffy eyes and dark circles in the short-term may not be the only prices you’ll pay for a poor night’s rest; a July 2013 study reveals that sleep-starved skin actually ages faster, too.
In a clinical trial commissioned by Estée Lauder, scientists at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center studied 60 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 30 and 49—with half qualifying as poor sleepers according to the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (take the same quiz here on YouBeauty).
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Using the SCINEXA skin aging scoring system that assigns a more aged appearance a higher number, researchers assessed attributes like fine lines, uneven pigmentation and slackening elasticity in the women. (That’s not exactly our idea of fun.) While the mean score among well-rested sleepers was 2.2, poor sleepers averaged a significantly higher 4.4 rating.
An aged appearance wasn’t the only bad news for the sleep-deprived. Poor sleepers recovered more slowly from sunburn, with a higher percentage retaining redness over 72 hours. And a skin barrier stress test that employed tape-stripping showed that the recovery rate of good quality sleepers was 30 percent higher than their bleary-eyed counterparts.
While we know that skin rejuvenation revs up at night, there’s another factor at play here that may be essential to keeping skin looking young and healthy.
“Poor sleep can prevent adequate secretion of melatonin levels, which we know is a natural antioxidant—that could be one of the reasons poor sleep led to accelerated aging and reduced skin health,” says Dr. Elma Baron, director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center and associate professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
That can be disconcerting news to the sleep-deficient, though Baron says there are steps that the insomniacs, new moms, exam-takers and deadline-ravaged among us can take to help mitigate phases of poor sleep in our lives.
“Skin moisturization, adequate water intake and good sun protection habits would help—but not necessarily reverse the effects of poor quality sleep on the skin,” she explains.
Looks like Sleeping Beauty may have had the best anti-aging strategy of all.