What if we told you you already have the best-ever beauty hack in your repertoire? It’s perhaps the dreamiest tip you’ll ever find: Go. To. Sleep.
News to no one: Humans need sleep. And besides the fact that we literally cannot survive without it, a healthy sleep cycle is perhaps the simplest way to achieve that natural, #wokeuplikethis glow. But please don’t drift off just yet! Follow along as we walk you through the story and science behind beauty sleep. Zzzzz.
Where does the idea of “beauty sleep” even come from?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first documented use of the term “beauty sleep” was in 1828 by the Author Charles White in his book Herbert Milton: “[The party] was attended principally by married women, who, if they had daughters out, generally took this opportunity of sending them to seek beauty sleep in bed before ten o'clock.” The OED now defines usage of the term as “strictly humorous,” with early use referring to sleep taken before midnight. Because 9-12 p.m. is when the good stuff happens, right? Wrong… partly. But we’ll get to that later.
As we know today, beauty sleep is essentially no different from any other sleep. Every minute helps. And it’s not “strictly humorous”—the science is there.
What happens, scientifically, while you sleep?
So, how exactly does a good night’s rest get you glowing? To put it simply, sleep is the time when your body works to repair itself.
“You make anti-inflammatory cytokines while you sleep, which help heal and reduce the impact of damage done throughout the day,” says Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, a neurologist who cites sun exposure and pollution as the two most common culprits of everyday skin damage. According to Durmer, this skin-repairing process usually occurs during non-REM sleep, which accounts for about half your nightly routine.
Just as adequate sleep can work natural wonders, not getting enough sleep can lead to all kinds of skin-related woes (along with increasing your stress, anxiety and crankiness and decreasing your immunity). A 2017 Swedish study found that depriving yourself of sleep makes people perceive you as “less attractive” (okay, rude) and "less healthy.” The same study determined that “sleep-deprived individuals report being less optimistic and sociable, are worse at understanding and expressing emotions, less empathetic, and more prone to accidents.” Yikes.
Another study, published in 2013, lists the following as outcomes of a bad night’s rest:
- Hanging eyelids
- Redder and more swollen eyes
- Darker under-eye circles
- Paler skin
- More wrinkles and fine lines
- More droopy mouth corners
This doesn’t sound great, we know. But here’s the good thing: the cure is known! And it’s all-natural. Here’s a list that’s a bit more fun.
The very-accessible benefits of a good night’s sleep
1. Glowing skin
No matter your age, lack of sleep = stress = potential skin problems. Sleep also encourages healthy blood flow, leading to an even tone and healthy glow.
2. Fewer wrinkles
Collagen, the protein that provides structure to many areas of your body, repairs itself while you sleep. More collagen means plumper skin and less likelihood of wrinkles. “Only getting 5 hours [of sleep] a night can lead to twice as many fine lines as sleeping 7,” says dermatologist Patricia Wexler.
3. Less-puffy eyes
Puffy eyes occur because fluid collects around your eyes when you lay down at night. You can combat this by making sure you get enough sleep, drink lots of water and stay in a comfortable sleeping position during the night. An extra pillow can do wonders!
Durmer also says that the dark circles under our eyes after a night of unrest are courtesy of a nervous system that’s not able to regulate blood vessels well, resulting in inflammation and swelling most notable in the face. The best way to fix this? Rest, of course!
4. Healthier hair
Just like your glow, your hair and scalp are impacted by blood flow. Keep getting those zzz’s so your hair follicles can get fed—nutrients, vitamins and minerals for everyone!
5. A thriving appearance overall
A number of other important processes happen while we’re asleep, too. One is the release of human growth hormone, dubbed the “fountain of youth” hormone by some who believe it can slow aging (scientists have yet to determine if this is true, so sprinkle that grain of salt here). HGH is what fuels growth in kids and teens, and it also helps to boost muscle strength, regulate metabolism and maintain tissues and organs. Another benefit: bright, healthy skin (you know… the kind every new skin care serum commercial promises?). As we get older, our output of HGH declines.
One of the best ways to increase your body’s secretion of HGH in the long-term is deep sleep. According to Healthline, the largest pulses of HGH occur before midnight, so maybe Charles White was right after all. Smaller pulses occur all night, though, so if you can’t fall asleep before the clock strikes 12, don’t give up altogether.
How many hours of sleep do I need to look (and feel) my best?
While the general consensus is that adult humans need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, you know yourself best. Do you feel rested on six and groggy when you get ten? (Good for you if this is the case, tbh.)
Other factors, such as pregnancy, aging, sleep deprivation and sleep quality also factor into your ideal sleep quantity. Always remember to listen to your body and don’t force yourself to stay awake, even if Bridgerton is that good.
How can I maximize the beauty benefits of sleep?
By sleeping soundly, of course!
Mayo Clinic has a few tips for extra-sound sleep. One is minimizing light and noise. You’ve probably heard this before, but it is truly important to banish any light-emitting electronics for a decent amount of time before bed. When you’re in the dark your brain releases more melatonin, resulting in feelings of calm and sleepiness. And surprise, surprise: Sound can bother you, too. Eye masks and white noise machines on!
Temperature also plays a role. While you rest, your core temperature drops. Turning the thermostat down a few degrees can aid in this natural drop and keep you comfortable during the night.
Sticking to your bedtime routine helps, too—and bonus points for one that includes washing your face, moisturizing, drinking lots of water (did you know sleep dries out your skin?) and resting on silk pillowcases to protect your hair and further prevent dehydration. And if you need a little help making sure your nightly wind-down isn’t interrupted by daily stress, here are 17 doable self-care tips for your consideration.