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Can Sleep Loss Make You Look Your Worst?

Last updated March 30, 2015

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

One-third of people do not get enough sleep.


Beauty sleep is real. However, one-third of people do not get enough sleep. Although an individual is advised to get 7-9 hours of sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40.6 million of American adults are sleeping less than seven hours a day. Night shift workers, particularly those who work in transportation and healthcare industries, are the ones who are at most risk of not getting enough sleep. It can be said that these people are not reaching their true ‘beauty’ potential because they are not getting enough rest.

Researchers in Sweden snapped photographs of 23 men and women ages 18 to 31 years after eight hours of sleep. Then, the researchers allowed the participants to sleep for five hours, before keeping them up for 31 hours straight. In both pictures, the participants wore no makeup, kept their hair loose, and used the same grooming techniques.  The researchers, then asked 65 new people to rate how vibrant, fatigued, and healthy the study participants looked. The photographs of the well-rested people scored considerably higher than people who did not get enough sleep. The sleep-deprived people were judged to look 19% more tired, 4% less attractive, and 6% less healthy after just one episode of sleep deprivation.

Another group of researchers at the University of Michigan used a precise, scientific face-measuring system called photogrammetry to objectively measure the freshness and attractiveness of 20 patients who went through sleep apnea treatment. Then, medical professionals and other volunteers rated these photographs, taken before and after the patients' treatments. Their scores were much better after sleep apnea treatment.

A clinical trial revealed that sleep deprivation could age your skin faster. Physician-scientists at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center suggest that poor sleepers proved signs of increased skin aging by 30%. Poor sleepers also had worse facial appearance and assessment of their skin than those who get a good night’s rest. Compared a full night’s sleep, people perceived the health and attractiveness of the sleep deprived condition on average of 6% and 4% less, and tiredness increased by 19%.

Researchers from Duke-Nus Graduate Medical School in Singapore concluded that older adults who slept less than seven hours per day are more likely to develop neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's disease. Individuals who slept fewer hours showed more neural signs of rapid aging such as larger brain ventricles, a marker of cognitive decline.

Tips to help sleep better:

  • Go to bed at a fixed time. Set your alarm to wake you up at the same time each day, including weekends, to develop a regular sleep-wake rhythm.
  • Make sure the bedroom is dark and away from blue light.
  • Do not drink caffeinated drinks after 3pm.
  • Do not exercise right before going to bed.
  • Find a comfortable mattress that makes your heels, back of your head, and buttocks rest well.

Try these tonight and start feeling and looking better immediately!

Written by Stephen Umunna

Additional Resources:

Axelsson, J., Sundelin, T., Ingre, M., Van Someren, E. J., Olsson, A., & Lekander, M. (2010). Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. Bmj341.

Chervin, R. D., Ruzicka, D. L., Vahabzadeh, A., Burns, M. C., Burns, J. W., & Buchman, S. R. (2013). The face of sleepiness: improvement in appearance after treatment of sleep apnea. Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine9(9), 845.

Estee Lauder Clinical Trial Finds Link between Sleep Deprivation and Skin Aging. (2013, July 17). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.uhhospitals.org/about/media-news-room/current-news/2013/07/estee-lauder-clinical-trial-finds-link-between-sleep-deprivation-and-skin-aging

Lo, J. C., Sim, S. K., & Chee, M. W. (2014). Sleep reduces false memory in healthy older adults. Sleep37(4), 665-U247.

Short Sleep Duration Among Workers — United States, 2010. (2012, April 27). Retrieved January 15, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6116a2.htm?s_cid=mm6116a2_w

Thuerk, S. (2013). Lack of sleep may speed up skin aging.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 30, 2015
Last updated: March 30, 2015