Here’s How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Appearance (and the Rest of Your Health)

We’ve all felt the effects of a poor night’s rest—the foggy brain, the mood swings, the nodding off in work meetings. It happens to all of us from time to time, but it’s also up to each of us to make sure that it doesn’t happen all the time, because continued sleep deprivation can have a massive negative impact on your body, inside and out.

To go deeper on sleep deprivation, we summoned the wisdom of clinical psychologist and leading sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, for more on how missing sleep negatively affects your body. We’ll start with the superficial stuff, and then move inward. Then, we’ll even go into how you can improve your “sleep hygiene” in a few key steps.

Sleep Deprivation’s Toll on Your Appearance

Appearance isn’t everything, obviously, but it’s one of the most evident ways to clock sleep deprivation—either in ourselves or in one another. Here, Breus spells out the superficial ways that a lack of sleep can impair the body.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Skin

Because your body repairs itself while you sleep, a lack of rest significantly sets back your cellular turnover and superficial processes. We need a good rest to heal wounds (even small ones, like acne marks), or to keep skin buoyant and firm. This helps prevent everything from dark circles to hyperpigmentation, from puffy eyes to fine lines. On top of that, our skin becomes far less resilient, firm, and bright over time, hence why Breus says a poor night’s rest looks a lot more harsh on an older individual than a younger one. 

“Sleep induces the production of collagen, a key ingredient in firm, youthful skin,” Breus says. “Also, the skin’s capacity to hold water is enhanced by sleep, thereby keeping skin moisturized and supple.” So, while a good night’s sleep can make a difference at any age, it’s all the more imperative as we age, if we want to encourage proper cellular repair and elasticity. Oh, and one more thing on the topic of healing, adds Breus: “Poor sleepers also take longer to recover from sunburns and other environmental and stress-related skin damage.”

Lastly, if you are acne-prone, then note that a lack of sleep increases cortisol levels in the body, which in turn kick starts your sebum production. More sebum yields more clogged pores, hence more acne.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Hair

Tiredness is a form of stress, and stress increases cortisol levels in your body. This can lead to premature hair shedding, in terms of your strands’ natural growth cycles, which is something that grew common with Covid-19 recovery. While stress-induced shedding can often be regrown, chronic sleep loss can cause irreparable damage on your follicles, in that they routinely grow back thinner. 

So, in line with one key aspect of hair retention: You need to minimize stress if you want strong, thick strands. On top of that, if your body is rested, you’ll have better blood flow. Your follicles will receive more nutrients and oxygen from this, and as a result, will grow stronger and stay anchored longer.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Body Mass

Breus points to a 2008 study which found that “exhausted adults who sleep less than their peers are more likely to be overweight,” he says. Secondly, a 2019 study found that solid sleep must be routine: “Making up for sleep debt by sleeping in during the weekend has no counter effects on weight gain,” he says of the study. “So, people who want to maintain a lower weight may want to consider making sleep a nightly priority.”

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