The Science Behind Beauty Sleep

You've heard that "beauty sleep" is important, but do you know why? Nanette B. Silverberg, MD, the director of Pediatric and Adolescent Dermatology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, and Clinical professor of Dermatology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, explains the science behind beauty sleep, and what restful slumber can do for your skin.

According to Silverberg, sleep is the state of altered psychomotor brain activity that helps your organs perform at their best—and that includes your skin. While you sleep, your nervous and vascular systems recharge themselves. In addition, sleep improves your immune function and supports collagen production and elastin retention.

If you've ever pulled an all-nighter for a college paper or because your little one wouldn't let you sleep, you know how blotchy and pale your skin can look the next morning. Silverberg says this is due to the excess blood vascular activity and abnormal nerve activity in the skin. You may also notice more pronounced facial lines because of increased muscle tone that is caused by prolonged activity (which is why you may look older than usual). When your skin doesn't have time to rejuvenate through the process of sleep, it becomes more vulnerable to skin illnesses, and the collagen and elastin break down.

According to Silverberg, here's how you can ensure you get a good night's sleep:

  • If you have sensitive skin, take a brief lukewarm shower or bath using fragrance-free cleansers. Then, moisturize your skin using an up-and-down technique, gently kneading over your muscles.
  • Avoid consuming caffeinated products after lunch.
  • To avoid acid reflux problems that can keep you up at night, don't eat after 8 pm.

If you're still having trouble getting your "beauty sleep," try creating an environment and routine that gently lulls you to sleep:

  • Turn out the lights and turn on a gentle fan or a white noise machine to remove distracting sounds to create a more peaceful environment.
  • Sleep in soft clothing made from natural fibers.
  • Lie on your back to prevent fluid from pooling in your face, which can leave your face feeling bloated the next day.
  • Keep the temperature cool and the humidity ambient.