How a Good Night’s Rest Affects Your Skin

There are plenty of reasons to try to get a good night’s rest. Among them: increased productivity and energy, reduced stress and inflammation, and even, potentially, weight loss.

One benefit you may not think of, however, is better skin health. “Skin undergoes circadian rhythms where specific activities occur in the morning and others in the evening. So well-rested sleep allows your skin to do what it does best, which is to repair itself and keep the barrier intact so we can function optimally the next morning,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

This goes beyond “glowy” or “youthful” skin (though you may experience those things too). Here’s how sleep can help—or harm—your skin health and why it matters.

Good sleep = stronger skin

“Your skin is designed to hold in moisture and nutrients, and to keep out bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins,” explains Los Angeles dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD, author of Feed Your Face. But just as poor sleep can make your muscles feel weaker during the next day’s workout, it can also weaken your skin. 

Poor sleep = worse eczema and psoriasis

Studies link sleep deprivation and inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema. The culprit may be the stress hormone cortisol. “Insomnia has been linked with increased cortisol, which causes inflammation. Increased skin inflammation can worsen redness, swelling, and itching associated with eczema and psoriasis,” Wu says. “The itching can wake people up from sleep, causing more sleep disturbance, so it becomes a vicious cycle.”

Poor sleep = worse acne

Another skin condition linked to poor sleep is acne. “Poor sleep puts our bodies into a state of physical and emotional stress,” Zeichner says. That triggers the release of cortisol, which can activate the oil glands, contributing to worsening of acne symptoms he explains.

Poor sleep = less hydration

Just one night of sleep deprivation can lead to drier skin, according to a small study of Korean women published in Skin Research and Technology in 2020. This not only makes your skin duller and less smooth. “A well-hydrated skin barrier can function optimally to protect our cells from the outside world,” Zeichner  says. Dehydrated skin also causes cells to shrink away from each other, leading to cracks and making the skin more susceptible to infection, as well as exposing nerve endings that make skin more itchy and sensitive, Wu adds.

Having difficulty falling or staying asleep? Optimize your sleep routine with these tips—or consider starting a bedtime meditation practice with some of our favorite guided meditations from Fitbit Premium.

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