Is beauty sleep a real thing?

beauty sleep

It’s a notion we’re all familiar with, but can getting a good night’s sleep really make you feel happier about the way you look?

‘Getting your beauty sleep’ is a phrase you’ve probably heard many many times before, but chances are you’ve never given it much credence. However, recent research suggests that there may be some truth in the idea of sleeping to beautify yourself. What’s more, it may only take a couple of bad nights of sleep to make a person look ‘significantly’ less attractive.

The study, carried out at the Karolinska Institute and led by experts in clinical neuroscience, aimed to discover more about our sleeping habits and see whether there is actually a link between getting a good night’s sleep and an improved appearance, with the help of 25 university participants.

Participants were asked to have two consecutive nights of high quality sleep and then, a week later, have two consecutive nights of poor quality sleep. Over 120 strangers were then asked to comment on photos of the individual and rate them on attractiveness, health, trustworthiness and sleepiness, as well as how much they would like to socialise with them.

The results found that the strangers could accurately judge if someone was sleepy, and their perceived attractiveness suffered as a result. The tired-looking photographs were also seen as less healthy and less trustworthy, with strangers saying they would be less willing to socialise with them.

The Karolinska Institute researchers commented on the results, saying:

“An unhealthy-looking face, whether due to sleep deprivation or otherwise, might activate disease-avoiding mechanisms in others.”

In other words, any perception of illness or fatigue can make people less likely to form a bond or attraction. Lead researcher, Dr Tina Sundelin, added:

“I don’t want to worry people or make them lose sleep over these findings though. Most people can cope just fine if they miss out on a bit of sleep now and again.”

Psychology expert at the University of Liverpool and member of the British Psychological Society, Dr Gayle Brewer, spoke of the idea of beauty sleep further, stating:

“Judgement of attractiveness is often unconscious, but we all do it, and we are able to pick up on even small cues like whether someone looks tired or unhealthy. We want our partners to be attractive and energetic.

“This study is a good reminder of how important sleep is to us.”

The power of sleep

There have been extensive studies into the effects of sleep, most of which suggests you should aim for around eight hours of quality sleep each night, falling asleep and waking up at roughly the same time every day for the most health benefits.

However, results such as those outlined above suggest that the idea of beauty sleep may not be as far-fetched as you may believe. Skin creates collagen while you sleep, which helps your skin repair and stay firmer for longer. In fact, sleeping for five hours a night can lead to twice as many fine lines as sleeping 7 hours a night, according to New York dermatologist Dr Patricia Wexler.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to drier skin, while getting plenty of sleep boosts blood flow to the skin and helps you wake up with a fresh and healthy glow. Sleep deprived skin can look ashen, and often leads to heavy dark circles under the eyes. This is often the first change in our appearance we notice when we’ve had a sleepless night.

Your hair can benefit from sleep too, as hair follicles gain vitamins, minerals and nutrients from the blood flow which occurs when we sleep. Because blood flow decreases when we’re sleep deprived, a lack of sleep can lead to weaker hair.

Of course, there are many benefits to sleep which occur internally, but which can have an impact on the way we look and feel. A survey of over 8,000 UK adults by researchers at Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research found that sleep had a stronger association with happiness than health, job security, the health of close relatives, a good sex life and income. And when we feel good, we look good. Research from Swansea University found that happy-looking faces were perceived as not only healthier than neutral faces, but also as more attractive.

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