Here's what makes sleep so beautiful

Here's What Makes Sleep So Beautiful

Nov 26, 2019

It’s a silly paradox. Your Instagram feed is an endless stream of nighttime beauty tips, yet there you are, lying awake and scrolling instead of snoozing.

There’s no shortage of beauty-blog advice for perfecting your before-bed routine. Washing off makeup is old news, and these days it’s nothing to embark on a ten-step skincare routine each night. You’ve probably also heard that sleeping on your back can evade wrinkles, and that silk pillowcases prevent hair breakage.

But here’s the thing: those tired tips run only skin deep. Beauty sleep means so much more than removing makeup and using the latest influencer-endorsed product. Because the real beauty benefits of sleep for your hair, skin, and nails start from within. To get back to basics, here’s the science on how sleep makes you glow.

Sleep keeps skin issues in check

If you already suffer from an inflammatory skin condition like acne or psoriasis, you’ve probably noticed that an all-nighter can make things worse. That’s because poor sleep prompts the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that produces inflammation throughout your body. It’s a multi-level vicious cycle: less sleep equals more stress. More stress creates cortisol. Cortisol hypes up your skin issues through inflammation—and worse, it causes itchiness, which keeps you awake and irritates your skin when you scratch.

Hydration balances at night

Be honest: your water bottle is within arm’s reach, isn’t it? Some days, if it weren’t for our constant trips to refill it—and the consequent hourly bathroom breaks—we’d never hit our FitBit step goals.

If you’ve had your fill of water, here’s some good news: even though we lose moisture through our breath at night, deep sleep helps the hydration balance within your skin. And that’s a key part of what makes it “beauty sleep.” Ever wonder why a late night leads to puffy eyes with dark circles? It’s mostly a matter of poor water balance. When you sleep, your body evenly distributes all that water you’ve been dutifully drinking, creating a more balanced, hydrated complexion.

Tired is never a good look

Dark circles and puffy eyes are a pain, but bouts of insomnia have other effects on your appearance. Exhaustion causes paler-looking skin and “half awake” eyelids. When you’re tired, your eyes lack oxygen, making your blood vessels open, and reddening your sclera, the white portion of your eyes.

These effects can add up after a while. In a recent study published in Sleep, 40 observers rated 20 photographs for cues of fatigue, and researchers found that people could recognize signs of exhaustion within a fraction of a second. A separate study at a Stockholm University sleep lab found that tired people were perceived to be significantly less healthy than they looked after a night of solid sleep, so in case you haven’t gotten the message yet, hit that hay!

That doesn’t mean you should lie awake worrying that others can see how tired you are. But it does mean that a good night’s sleep will leave you looking and feeling like your best self.


  • Gupta M, Gupta A. “Sleep-wake disorders and dermatology.” Sleep. 2013 Jan/Feb; 31(1): 118-126.
  • Rosinger A, Chang AM, Buxton OM, Li J, Wu S, Gao X. “Short sleep duration is associated with inadequate hydration: cross-cultural evidence from US and Chinese adults.” Sleep. 2019 February; 42(2).
  • Provine R, Cabrera M, Brocato N, Krosnowski K. “When the Whites of the Eyes are Red: A Uniquely Human Cue.” Ethology. 2011 March; 117(5): 395-399.
  • Sundelin T, Ledander M, Kecklund G, Van Someren E, Olsson A, Axelsson J. “Cues of Fatigue: Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Facial Appearance.” Sleep. 2013 September; 36(9): 1355-1360.
  • Axelsson J, Sundelin T, Ingre M, Van Someren E, Olsson A, Lekander M. “Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people.” BMJ. 2010 October; 341.


Continue reading