We uncover the restorative benefits of beauty sleep for your skin, body and mind.

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In our fast-paced lives, where we balance work, family commitments, friendships and fitness plans—and, hopefully, some personal R&R time—often an essential ingredient to our health and beauty gets taken for granted: sleep.

According to the World Association of Sleep Medicine, 60 per cent of Canadians are sleep deprived. Often, for those of us who are high achievers, one less hour of shuteye equates to another item checked off our endless to-do lists, but what’s the long-term impact? We spoke to a few sleep, health and beauty experts to investigate the implications of not resting enough and to uncover what “beauty sleep” means.

Sleep and Skin Aging

If you’re yawning all day, you need to take your body’s needs more seriously instead of simply pounding back another cup of java.

“One-third of Canadians sleep less than six hours a night,” explains Andrea Donsky, a registered holistic nutritionist and wellness expert. “Research has shown that those suffering from sleep deprivation may be three times more likely to develop diabetes or heart disease and gain weight. Without the proper amount of sleep, it’s hard to concentrate and we are more likely to be irritable and suffer from headaches.”

Furthermore, less sleep impacts our physical appearance as well. “Over time, a lack of sleep contributes to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to collagen degradation,” says Dr. Channy Muhn, MD, FRCPC, a dermatologist at Dermetics in Burlington, Ont. “Collagen is essential to firmness, thickness and elasticity of the skin.”

Donsky concurs: “An increase in stress hormones can cause inflammation within the skin, which can actually accelerate the aging process.”

Conversely, a lack of sleep also means lower levels of human growth hormones (HGH), which is responsible for new cell production both in the skin and across our organ systems, says Dr. Nathan Rosen, MD, FRCPC, a dermatologist at Dermetics in Burlington, Ont. “Physical consequences evident in the skin of patients who don’t sleep enough include dark circles around the eyes due to dilated blood vessels, puffiness under the eyes and an accentuation of fine lines,” says Dr. Rosen.

Furthermore, the effects of sleep on aging skin can mean that acne can take longer to resolve, and the skin loses its ability to stay hydrated, resulting in dullness and dryness.

The Benefits of Beauty Sleep

All signs clearly point to sleep needing to factor higher on our priority lists, but why? What happens during sleep that allows us to look and feel healthier and more youthful? “During deep sleep, psychological tensions are released, energy stores are built up again, the skin regenerates itself, muscles are repaired and immunity is improved,” explains Vezeau.

But if we don’t sleep enough, our bodies are robbed of this renewal process. “There is a one-hour period between midnight and 1 a.m. in which the skin’s renewal cycles are activated,” notes Vezeau. “Flaking, cell differentiation, restoration of the skin’s barrier function, micro-circulation and cellular reorganization reach their peak at night, resulting in more attractive skin in the morning.”

This active process of the skin’s repair mechanisms has been documented by six different scientific studies and been renamed as “the skin’s deep sleep.”

Take Control of Your Aging Skin

Depending on your personal sleep habits you are currently in one of two situations:

  1. You don’t sleep enough and your skin is showing the effects, with fine lines on the rise, puffy dark circles and the need for some hydration. You need to up your nocturnal skin regimen and perhaps visit your derm for some help to reverse the damage you’ve incurred. (Plus, nail down a sleep routine to start getting some quality zzzs with these sleep tips.)
  2. You already have a sleep routine down pat (kudos to you!), but you want to take advantage of skin’s deep sleep by putting some nighttime skin-care rituals into play to reap the benefits of this time.

Here’s what you need to know to reclaim a beautiful complexion: “Preventive skin care is always the first step to help your skin’s natural regenerative processes,” says Dr. Rosen. “The use of an antioxidant is imperative to protect yourself from environmental aggressors and stress. Moisturization and SPF are important to counter trans-epidermal water loss.”

“Additionally, the nighttime beauty products created by Vichy and often found in many nighttime skin-care products factor in the following active ingredients: hyaluronic acid to regulate skin cell production [keratinocytes], caffeine to drain and decongest the skin and counter signs of fatigue and lipohydroxy acid (LHA) for optimal cellular desquamation [skin shedding] to smooth out the skin,” says Vazeau.

But if issues like sagging skin, wrinkles and more progressive skin-quality qualms have already appeared, Dr. Rosen recommends laser treatments to help boost collagen production and deplete fine lines, fillers to improve saggy skin and neuromodulators to be injected into lines. Together with the use of topicals, a good sleep routine and these more-involved treatments, Dr. Rosen sees this as the three main pillars for healthy skin.