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Beauty Sleep Is Real. Here's How Sleep Affects Your Appearance

Lack of sleep affects your appearance beyond dark circles under your eyes. Here's what to know.

Nasha Addarich Martínez Managing Editor
Nasha is a Senior Editor for health and wellness at CNET. She is a nutrition, mental health and sleep science enthusiast. Her passion for mindful and holistic practices transcends her personal life and profoundly influences her editorial approach, as she weaves evidence-based insights with practical advice to inspire readers to lead healthier, more balanced lives. Throughout her career, she's covered various topics including financial services, technology, travel and wellness.
Expertise Sleep, mental health, personal care and nutrition. Credentials
  • Sleep Science Coach Certification from The Spencer Institute.
Nasha Addarich Martínez
Medically Reviewed
Reviewed by: Troy Mensen, DO Medical Reviewer
Dr. Troy Mensen is a family medicine doctor based in the Chicago area. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Northern Iowa and his doctorate at Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Expertise Family medicine Credentials
  • American Board of Family Medicine, Family Medicine
  • State of Illinois, Medical Examining Board License
  • University of Northern Iowa, BA
  • Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine, DO
4 min read
Pink sleep mask over dark purple background with gold stars.
Anna Blazhuk/Getty Images

You may have heard that quality sleep is essential for our overall well-being, but did you know that it also heavily affects our appearance? When you think about all the things that can have an impact on your skin, sleep isn't usually the first thing to come to mind. However, it's not always easy for us to get those recommended seven to nine hours of beauty sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders. Inadequate sleep not only affects your mental and physical health, but even your physical features like hair, eyes and skin. 

So, what does poor sleep do to your appearance and health? Here's what we know.

The science behind beauty sleep

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When you sleep, your body enters recovery mode and each stage of sleep is crucial to skin recovery. During varying stages of sleep, the body produces multiple hormones including human growth hormone, melatonin and cortisol. These hormones play critical roles in recovery including repairing skin from daily damage, keeping our skin looking youthful and protecting your skin from free radicals that can cause damage to cells.

When sleeping, every hour counts. If you're having trouble getting the recommended hours of sleep, check out our guide on how to get better sleep.

Read more: Fall Asleep Faster by Doing This Thing Right Before Bed

Why poor sleep harms appearance 

A 2017 study found that lack of sleep has the potential to negatively affect your facial appearance and may decrease others' willingness to socialize with the sleep-deprived person. Here's how not getting enough shut-eye affects your appearance.

Skin: Let's start with the basics. Lack of sleep affects your appearance by making you look tired. You know, bags under the eyes and all that jazz. Not only does poor sleep affect your skin, but also its normal functions -- like collagen production. Excess cortisol due to the stress of sleep deprivation is a common cause of acne

Hair: Lack of sleep also impacts your hair growth since collagen production is affected when we don't get enough sleep, making your hair more prone to thinning or hair loss. Sleep deprivation can also cause stress on the body and increase cortisol, which can lead to hair loss.

Eyes: Just one night of poor sleep is enough to cause dark circles under your eyes. Lack of sleep can cause the blood vessels around your eyes to dilate and create dark circles or puffiness. Depending on your natural skin tone, these dark circles may be visible as shades of blue, purple, black or brown.

Read more: How to Fall Asleep in 10 Minutes or Less

Close up of a young woman applying eye cream on dark circles under her eyes
Marina Demeshko/Getty Images

Lack of sleep affects your body and mind

Sleep deprivation goes beyond affecting the way you look. Lack of sleep can also affect the way your body and mind work.

Impact of poor sleep on your body

Prolonged deprivation can make you feel sluggish and fatigued, which means less energy to get you through the day. Other studies have linked lack of sleep to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol due to the higher levels of cortisol.

Impact of poor sleep on your mind

Studies show that sleep deprivation can affect memory function and emotional stability, as well as impair decision-making skills. Poor sleep can hurt your performance at work, lead to mood swings and enhance emotions like anger and sadness.

Data from a 2021 study found that people ages 50 through 60 who got 6 hours or less of sleep were at greater risk of developing dementia. Those who got less sleep than the recommended seven hours, were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later in life than those who got the recommended hours of sleep.

The link between lack of sleep and weight gain

In addition to how you look, how you sleep can also impact your weight. Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain and a higher risk of obesity in men and women. Similarly, people with severe sleep apnea experience increased weight gain

One study that followed 68,000 middle-aged American women for 16 years found that women who slept five hours or less a night where 15% more likely to become obese over the course of the study than those who slept seven hours.

Read more: How to Create the Ideal Environment for Better Sleep

How to get your beauty rest

Ready to catch up on some beauty rest? Follow these tips for sleeping for better skin:

How to build a good sleep routine?

Here are four steps to try:

1. Go to bed at approximately the same time each night.

2. Wake up at approximately the same time every morning.

3. Limit your naps to 30 minutes or less.

4. Maintain a regular sleep schedule on weekends.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.