How You Sleep is More Than Skin-Deep

Forget everything you've heard about sleep.  Eight hours a night helps you fight bugs and viruses.  It will help you lose weight. It can be affected by snoring.

But now, in addition to how much you sleep, the quality of your sleep is even more important.  A new study has found how well you sleep can affect your skin "function," and aging.

According to a story at, the study found that "poor sleepers had increased signs of skin aging and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation."

Now when I tell you who commissioned the study, you might have a few reservations.  It was Estee Lauder.

But you ignore the conclusions at your own risk.  "Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin aging," quotes Elma Baron, MD, director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center and associate professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, who ran the study. She adds, "Sleep- deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure.”

The survey was more than skin-deep.  The research team wanted to find out if skin function and appearance was affected by sleep quality, "which is vital to the growth and renewal of the body’s immune and physiological systems."

The study included 60 pre-menopausal women between 30 and 49.  Half of the participants fell into the "poor sleep" quadrant.  And what the scientists discovered was that "poor quality sleepers showed increased signs of intrinsic skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and slackening of skin and reduced elasticity."

Using the SCINEXA skin aging scoring system, where higher numbers mean earlier signs of aging, poor-quality sleepers scored 4.4, while those who had better quality of sleep, 2.2.

In addition, on a less serious but no less important note, recovery from sunburn was slower in poor-quality sleepers, with redness remaining over 72 hours.  And here's something that doesn't have anything to do with skin.  Poor-quality sleepers had much higher body mass indexes than women who slept well -- 23% of the good sleepers were obese, compared to 44% of the poor sleepers.

So what does this all mean?  I hate to come down on women who can't sleep because I've been there myself (before I had a child, however).  But there are ways to sleep better.  Turn off the TV.  Don't exercise an hour before bed.  Listen to soothing music.  Meditate, if that's your thing (works for me).  And probably, most important, don't bring work to bed.  Sleep tight!


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