HOW SLEEP AFFECTS YOUR SKIN
As I write this, it’s 2:43 a.m. There’s a dog on my feet, a cat by my side and my husband is softly snoring beside me. Only at this hour of the morning, it sounds like a bomb going off with each inhalation and I want to kick him, hit him, anything to make it stop so I can get some sleep. It’s not his fault, really. I just can’t fall asleep. I’m hot; I’m cold. I’m hungry. I turn to Facebook for amusement but there’s nothing new. Same old feel-good sayings being posted. Same old photos of animals doing silly things and cartoons of that old lady saying funny things. They make me want to pull my hair out one strand at a time. All I want is to close my eyes and sleep. I’ve got a big day tomorrow – and I am going to look like hell. And I’m not just saying that to excuse the dark circles under my eyes and the wan complexion I know I’ll have. Science and Estee Lauder, one of the world’s most popular and luxurious brands of cosmetics, bear me out. Here’s the sad truth …
In a study commissioned by Estee Lauder, scientists at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center found that sleep quality impacts skin function and aging. (Groan.) They found that poor sleepers not only had increased signs of skin aging but also showed a slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors. The study, titled Effects of Sleep Quality and Skin Aging was presented at the International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland and, says primary investigator Elma Baron, MD, “Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin aging. Sleep deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure.”
It’s 2:55 a.m. Still no sleep, but reading the results of this study has made me so anxious, no amount of fence-jumping sheep could get me to doze off at this point.
The Estee Lauder study involved 60 pre-menopausal women, ages 30 to 49, with half of them falling into the poor quality sleep category, which was based on a standard questionnaire of sleep quality and average duration of sleep. Participants also underwent a visual skin evaluation, participated in several non-invasive skin challenge tests for UV exposure and skin barrier disruption and kept a sleep log for a week.
Using a special skin aging scoring system, poor quality sleepers showed increased signs of intrinsic skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation, reduced elasticity and slackening of skin. (Double groan but maybe it’s not the snoring. Why did I have that second cup of coffee after dinner? And the bombs are still exploding in the dark of night on the other side of the bed. No, it’s definitely the snoring. And I am definitely going to look like hell tomorrow.)
Researchers found that good quality sleepers recovered more efficiently from stressors to the skin whereas the inverse was true for poor quality sleepers. (3:02 a.m. and still not sleeping. What would the researchers say about no-quality sleepers, I wonder as my husband snores blissfully into the waning night.)
As for the skin visualization tests – poor quality sleepers showed slower recovery from sunburn with redness remaining high over 72 hours, indicating a lowered ability to reduce inflammation. In addition, a Transepidermal Water Loss test was used to determine the skin’s ability to serve as an effective barrier against moisture loss. One guess as to which group’s skin retained moisture more effectively. Yup, in measurements taken 72 hours after a skin-barrier stressor (tape-stripping. I’m not quite certain what that is) recovery of good quality sleepers was 30% higher than poor quality sleepers. (My husband’s snoring is driving me slowly insane.) In other words, poor quality sleepers repair skin damage more slowly – and show it more evidently. (Is that even the right word? I’m so tired, I can barely think anymore.)
Oh, and here’s some more bad news. Poor quality sleepers were much more likely to have higher Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) than their sleeping counterparts. According to the study, 44% of poor quality sleepers were obese compared to 23% of good quality sleepers. (I am about to kick my husband out of bed.) The researchers also asked participants about their perception of their own attractiveness and – no surprises here – poor quality sleepers scored lower on that self-evaluation test than did good quality sleepers.
Let’s hear from an Estee Lauder executive, please. “This research shows for the first time, that poor sleep quality can accelerate signs of skin aging and weaken the skin’s ability to repair itself at night,” said Dr. Daniel Yarosh, Senior Vice President, Basic Science Research, R&D, at The Estée Lauder Companies. “These connections between sleep and skin aging, now supported with solid scientific data, will have a profound effect on how we study skin and its functions. We see these findings as yet another way we can direct our scientific research toward the real needs of our customers who want to look and feel their best.”
Good to know. I’m all for the melding of science and beauty.
It’s now 3:18 a.m. and I am wide awake. The good news? My husband has been exiled to an empty bedroom. The cat has left the room. The puppy has removed herself from my feet – and I have a closetful of concealers, moisturizers, foundations and highlighters that, when wielded artfully, will perform magic on my sleep-deprived face for tomorrow’s (today’s!) big day!
That’s a happy thought upon which dreams are made. Good night all. Sleep well.
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