The Beauty Benefits of Sleep & How to Get More of It

Aside from a winning Powerball ticket, sleep is the hottest commodity in town. We need it to survive, we need it to be productive, and, yes, we even need it to look our best. And while sleep is quite possibly the cheapest beauty enhancer around, we're not getting enough of it.

Maybe your kids are the prime sleep thieves in your house, or it could be work stress, financial woes, or your Facebook addiction. Either way, something's gotta give and we need to take back our sleep. Even the tiniest bit of it helps. And if your peace of mind isn't enough to force you to seek out more zzzz's, let us appeal to your vanity with how lack of sleep affects that pretty little face of yours -- and what you can do to take back your sleep.

 

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  • In Your Eyes

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    Concealer or no concealer, that lack of sleep is going to show up in the eyes. "Lower eyelid bags can become present or look worse with lack of sleep, says Dr. Houtan Chobaki, MD, a board certified facial plastic surgeon with George Washington Medical Faculty Associates. "I often see patients in my facial plastic surgery practice who want lower eyelid surgery, but one of the several questions I ask is, 'How is your sleep?' Many patients think of getting older as the main reason of looking older, but there are many other factors for a youthful and refreshed appearance."

  • Sad Skin

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    According to the CDC, 83.6 million Americans are sleep-deprived -- that's one-third of the country! "Sleep is a time of rejuvenation and repair for the body, which is why it so essential for a healthy, youthful appearance," says Rosie Osmun, VP of skincare development at SVELTA Beauty, and content manager at Amerisleep.com, an eco-friendly mattress company. "Studies have found that well-rested people not only look more attractive, but have healthier skin on a cellular level. Tired people, on the other hand, look older, less attractive, and even less approachable -- bad news if you want to look alluring!"

  • Aging Up

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    "A lack of sleep can age the complexion prematurely, leading to dark under-eye circles and inhibiting your face’s youthful glow," says Dr. Brian Zelickson, a dermatologist and founder of MD Complete Skincare. "When you don’t sleep enough, your body produces excessive amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone that controls skin collagen. Too much of this hormone breaks down the collagen and decreases skin’s smoothness and elasticity."

    More from The Stir: Dark Circles Under Your Eyes: What Really Causes Them? 

  • Sleep Sanctuary

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    Now that we've talked about all the damage lack of sleep can do, let's talk about how to get back into a sleep groove. 

    "Think of your bedroom as your sleep sanctuary," says Dr. Sujay Kansagra of Duke University and Mattress Firm’s Sleep Health Consultant. "All other activities should be performed outside your bed, and ideally, outside your room. You want to condition your mind to think about sleep when you walk into your bedroom, not about the latest assignment from work."

  • Sleep So Good

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    That whole "sleep sanctuary" thing is also about creating good overall "sleep hygiene," something we should probably all work on. Osmun tells us, "A few ways to truly maximize beauty during rest include following healthy sleep hygiene (no lights, no electronics, regular schedules), avoiding sleep-stealing (dehydrating) alcohol too close to bed, cleansing away makeup, and using hydrating face and body products with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, or retinols, which aid skin’s restorative processes during the night so you wake up looking fresh and glamorous."

  • Sleep Routine

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    On average, an adult should get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If that number seems laughable, Zelickson says there are ways to make the sleep you are getting more impactful. "Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day," he advises. "This will help the body establish a 'circadian rhythm,' or natural wake/sleep cycle that it can stick to."

    More from The Stir: 12 Excellent Sheet Masks for Glowing, Healthy Skin on the Quick 

  • Make Sleep Beautiful

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    A lot of beauty companies have really revved up their sleepy time product offerings so that consumers can pack a real beauty punch overnight. Reverie, a brand commited to revolutionizing the way we sleep and makers of mattresses, has an entire team of sleep scientists working to make sure we're getting the most out of the time our head is on the pillow.

    For bedtime, they suggest you wash your face and moisturize (for bonus points, invest in a humidifier), choose a low-friction pillowcase made with more slippery material, like satin or high thread-count cotton, wear your hair in a loose bun, sleep with your head slightly elevated, and change and clean your pillow case often.

  • Ditch the Digital

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    Dr. Zelickson recommends ditching the digital. "Before falling asleep, avoid bright screens like phones, laptops, and tablets. The light from these devices mimics outdoor natural light and tricks the body into thinking it needs to be awake." 

  • Food for Thought

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    Interestingly, food plays a major part in the quality of sleep we're getting. “What you eat before bedtime has a big impact on the quality of your night’s sleep,” says Rebecca Lewis, in-house registered dietitian for HelloFresh, a meal kit delivery service. “Eating the right foods can be the difference between being wide awake, tossing and turning, and falling fast asleep.” Rebecca suggests incorporating cherries or tart cherry juice, pistachios, salmon, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and avocado into your last meal of the day. And your favorite herbal tea with honey? That's a major sleep "do" as well.

    More from The Stir: 5 Easy Foods to Eat When You're So -- Yawn! -- Tired 

  • Invite Sleep

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    For one last tip, Dr. Zelickson also encourages setting up a meditation-like routine prior to slipping under the sheets. "Before falling asleep, practice a relaxation routine that helps relieve you of the day’s stress," says Zelickson. "Some proven techniques are deep breathing, visualizing a peaceful place, and listening to soft music or sound effects."

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