Overlooked Sleep Habits That Dramatically Impact Your Skin

Dr. Janet Zand

August 9, 2019



We all know that beauty sleep is real. After all, just a night or two of bad sleep shows up all over your face. And I’m sure you know that nighttime is the best time to apply many of your skincare products.

But even if you’re getting plenty of sleep, washing your face before bed, and following a careful routine, you could still be making some key mistakes with your sleep habits or your sleep environment. Here’s how to make sure your beauty sleep really does make you more beautiful.

The first step is, of course, to get enough sleep. But it’s not just the duration of your sleep that counts. When you sleep matters too. You may have heard the saying that "An hour's sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight." There's definitely some truth to that. The quality of sleep you get from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. will be better than from 2:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

This is especially true for your skin. Your skin restores itself every night by quickly replicating new cells. Your body's biological rhythms control this process, and they usually start around 11:00 p.m. You want to be asleep by then to help your body do its best work for your skin.

You can also help your skin's processes by applying a collagen-boosting moisturizing cream by 10:00 p.m. This will allow the active ingredients in the cream to work together with your body's rhythms so you achieve maximum results.

Fall Asleep Fast, Stay Asleep, and Sleep Correctly

Because sleep is so important for your skin, make sure you're taking the time to ensure you're able to fall asleep easily and stay asleep. Try a hot bath before bed and consider Epsom salts on those nights your muscles feel tight to help you relax or a neck and face massage. Stay away from spicy foods or anything else that irritates your stomach before bed. Make sure your bedroom is completely dark, especially during the summer, when the sun doesn’t set until after you may want to be heading to bed. Any source of light can interfere with sleep.

When you do get in bed, ideally at an early hour, make sure you’re sleeping in the best position for your skin. If you’re a side or a stomach sleeper, there’s some bad news: you could be creating wrinkles.

Pillow Problems

Any positon that presses your face against the pillow creates friction for your skin. Stomach sleepers are particularly prone to forehead wrinkles, while side sleepers often get a disproportionate number of creases on the side of their face they sleep on. They also tend to get vertical creases on their chins and cheeks. And stomach and side sleepers can even create wrinkles on their chests.

The constant contact with the pillow can increase your risk of breakouts as well. Do your best to sleep on your back with your face away from the pillow. This will help keep your products on your face and dirt and grime from your pillowcase off of it. And it will reduce friction on your skin.

Just don’t ditch the pillow altogether! Having your head elevated slightly helps fluid drain so you don’t wake up looking puffy. It will also help you minimize snoring, acid reflux, and nasal drip, so these issues are less likely to disrupt your sleep. If you find that being elevated makes a significant difference in your sleep quality, you can get a wedge for under your mattress or even raise the front feet of your bed. Adding another pillow can help as well.

Speaking of your pillow, you may never have thought about how significant a role it can play in the health of your skin. Even if you’re a dedicated back-sleeper, chances are your face will come into contact with your pillow at some point. Even if you wash your face before bed, shower, and wash your hair, your skin and your hair will still leave oil on your pillowcase. Skip a night of removing your makeup, and you’ll be sleeping on that grime until you do laundry.

All the oil and sweat that collect on your pillowcase continue to build up over time. That residue becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. You’ll want to wash your sheets and pillowcases at least once a week to eliminate this buildup. If that’s too much laundry for you, consider investing in several extra pillowcases. You can switch them out every few nights until you can catch up on the washing.

If you go this route, you may want to go ahead and upgrade to silk or satin pillowcases. Because these fabrics are so smooth, they help reduce wrinkle-causing friction. Plus, they’re nice and cool, which can help you sleep comfortably in the heat.

Another way to reduce the oil on your pillow is to keep your hair up while you sleep. Try wearing your hair in a loose ponytail or bun. You don’t want a style that’s so tight it will cause breakage. But keeping your hair contained can minimize the amount of reside you transfer to your pillow and skin. People who notice breakouts along their hair lines may want to be particularly careful to keep their hair off their pillows. If you have curly hair or are really struggling with oil transfer, you can even invest in a satin cap. This will help keep your hair – and your skin – smooth.

Be Goldilocks on Air Temp and Quality

Overlooking the air quality in your bedroom can be another issue. For starters, you want to make sure the temperature is not too hot and not too cold. Blasting the heat can dry out your skin. But if you’re too chilly, you won’t sleep deeply. Experts recommend a temperature around 66 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can adjust this according to your comfort level.

Be sure you take the humidity of the room into consideration as well. If you need to run the heat so you don’t freeze, consider running a humidifier along with it. And of course, make sure you’re wearing a moisturizer strong enough to stand up to dry air. If you wake up feeling parched in the morning, your skin could be thirsty too. You can even try a hydrating overnight mask to deliver extra moisture.

Additionally, you can leave a glass of water on your nightstand to begin rehydrating first thing in the morning. This is a great way to start the day, and your skin will thank you. However, do make sure you save it for the morning. Too much liquid right before bed can disrupt your sleep. No one enjoys waking up for trips to the bathroom!

That goes for alcohol and caffeinated beverages too. Drinking any liquid can cause you to wake up for a bathroom break. But alcohol and caffeine are particularly disruptive to your sleep. Try to have your last alcoholic beverage at least three hours before bed. Caffeine stays in your system even longer—up to 12 hours. By cutting back on alcohol and caffeine before you try to fall asleep, you can help ensure you actually get the rest you need. Then you won’t have to rely on these pick-me-ups the next day!

The quality of your sleep truly does make a difference in the quality of your skin. In fact, in one study, researchers evaluated the skin and the sleep habits of 60 premenopausal women between the ages of 30 and 49. Half of them suffered from poor quality sleep, according to their reports of how much sleep they got and their answers on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index questionnaire.

The researchers evaluated the participants’ skin using the SCINEXA skin aging system and found that the women who had poor sleep had older-looking skin, evidenced by fine lines, uneven pigmentation, looser skin, and a reduction in skin elasticity. The higher the SCINEXA score, the more aged the skin appears. And the women with poor-quality sleep averaged a score of 4.4, compared to just 2.2 for those who got good sleep.

That’s enough to motivate me to get good rest. Make sure your environment isn’t undermining all that good repair work that’s happening when you rest. Adjusting your sleep position and your thermostat, swapping out your pillowcase, and snapping on a humidifier can all go a long way towards helping you make the most of the third of your life you spend resting.

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