The fact that the lack of sleep has a bad impact on the face may seem obvious to many of us, but the research team led by Dr. Elma Baron has demonstrated it scientifically .
“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,” said Dr. Baron, Director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
Intrinsic skin aging signs
The study involved 60 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 30 and 49, with half of participants falling into the poor quality sleep category. The classification was made on the basis of average duration of sleep and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a standard questionnaire-based assessment of sleep quality. The study involved a visual skin evaluation and participation in several non-invasive skin challenge tests including UV light exposure and skin barrier disruption. Additionally, participants filled out a sleep log for one week to quantify sleep duration.
The researchers found statistically significant differences between good and poor quality sleepers. Using the SCINEXA skin aging scoring system , poor quality sleepers showed increased signs of intrinsic skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and slackening of skin and reduced elasticity. In this system, a higher score means a more aged appearance. The average score in the good quality sleepers was 2.2 versus 4.4 in poor quality sleepers.
While researchers found no significant difference between the groups in signs of extrinsic aging, which are attributed primarily to sun exposure, such as coarse wrinkles and sunburn freckles - they found that good quality sleepers recovered more efficiently from stressors to the skin. Recovery from sunburn was more sluggish in poor quality sleepers, with erythema (redness) remaining higher over 72 hours, indicating that inflammation is less efficiently resolved.
A Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) test was used at various time points to determine the ability of the skin to serve as an effective barrier against moisture loss. In measurements 72 hours after a skin barrier stressor (tape-stripping), the recovery of good quality sleepers was 30% higher than poor quality sleepers (14% vs. -6%), once again demonstrating that they repair the damage more quickly.
Additionally, poor quality sleepers were significantly more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). For example, 23% of good quality sleepers were obese compared to 44% of poor quality sleepers. Not surprisingly, self-perception of attractiveness was significantly better in good quality sleepers vs. poor quality sleepers.
“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.”