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Health and wellbeing | 03.06.2014

The effects of sleep deprivation on skin are a real eye-opener

 

The effects of sleep deprivation on skin are not pretty. Not pretty at all.

Most of us know about the health impacts of lack of sleep — impaired cognitive function and memory, immune system dysfunction and dangerous effects such as the possibility of having a microsleep while driving.

Just one or two nights of missed sleep can make you look positively haggard, but chronic sleep deprivation accelerates the aging process like you wouldn't believe.

A Swedish study published in the May 2014 edition of the journal Sleep found that not only does sleep deprivation make you look older, it also makes you look SADDER.

As part of the study, 40 observers rated 20 facial photographs with respect to fatigue, 10 facial cues, and sadness. Five  men and five women were photographed at 2.30pm after normal sleep and after 31 hours of sleep deprivation following a night with five hours of sleep.

The faces of the poor sleep deprived people were perceived as having:

In addition, the sleep deprived sufferers looked sadder than after normal sleep, and sadness was related to looking fatigued.

Other studies have shown sleep deprivation results in extra fine lines, uneven skin pigmentation, reduced skin elasticity, puffy eyes and lacklustre skin.

Why are the effects of sleep deprivation on skin so damaging?

Basically, if you don't get enough sleep, your skin doesn't get a chance to repair.

If you get less sleep than you need on a regular basis, your body will release more of the stress hormone cortisol. This breaks down the skin's collagen, the protein that keeps it smooth and elastic.

Also, sleep loss causes the body to release too little human growth hormone. Human growth hormone promotes growth in kids, but as we age, it helps increase muscle mass, thickens skin, and strengthens bones.

Its during deep or 'slow-wave' sleep that growth hormone is released and skin tissue is repaired.

How much sleep do we need for our skin to look its best?

According to Australian sleep scientist Carmel Harrington, about three per cent of the population can get away with four to five hours of sleep a night and three per cent need ten to eleven hours, but the vast majority fall into the seven to nine hours a night category.

Carmel also explains that a lack of sleep can lead to obesity, as the metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Click here to listen to a fascinating interview with Carmel on a podcast of the ABC radio show Conversations with Richard Fidler.

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