Sleep and its impact on ageing skin

A restless sleep is doing much more than making us feel sluggish the next morning, a bad night’s sleep actually has a negative impact on our skin.

Ageing skin

It is often said that there is nothing like a good night’s sleep for health and rejuvenation. After a night without rest it’s easy to understand why they call it ‘beauty sleep’. Without a good night’s sleep, we just don’t look or feel that great in the morning. Neither does our skin. It looks tired and pale, lacking in lustre. Wrinkles, bags under the eyes and dark circles around them appear more pronounced. Studies show that even after only one night of missed sleep, others view our face as less attractive, less happy and less healthy. In other words, we look older. With chronic sleep deprivation, these changes become more marked and more persistent.

Therefore, if we look after our sleep, we also look after our beauty. Sleep is an important time for skin repair, when old and damaged cells and matrix are replaced with new organised matrix and younger, healthier cells. Blood flow to the skin increases during the night to support this function. Missing sleep and disrupting the biological rhythms associated with it will disrupt this process of rejuvenation.

The amount of sleep needed varies between people, between seasons, and even over the course of the working week. As we get older, we tend to need less sleep on average, although healthy active elderly people will probably enjoy as much sleep as many younger adults.

Factors to consider for a good night’s sleep:


Block out the light from the street or the next room and use bulbs that block blue light to maximise the melatonin surge that occurs with sleep. Keep the TV and computer out of the bedroom


Falling body temperature is an important cue for sleep. This can be enhanced by keeping our bedroom cooler than the rest of the house, or by having a bath or shower in the evening.

Couple sleeping


Noise and stimulation are supposed to keep us awake. The bedroom should, therefore, be a quiet place.


When possible, we should try to go to bed, and wake up, at the same times each day, even on the weekends. This makes it easier to fall asleep at night and get up in the morning. Do the same things each time, like taking a shower, and include some ‘mental cleaning’ and relaxation into your daily sleep routine.


Our bed should be a comfortable place. We spend more of our lifetime there than any other place, but beds seldom receive as much attention as our car or the television. Simple things can help, such as regularly replacing worn out, uneven or uncomfortable mattress and pillows with those that allow us to maintain an anatomically neutral position

No stimulation

For sleep to occur, we need to wind down so that our brains can enter the sleep cycle. Our brains cannot do this if they are trying to do something else, whether coping with stress or engaging in mental or physical activity. Taking caffeine any time after 2 pm can see the buzz staying round until bedtime. Similarly, late meals can keep the brain going. Exercising within three hours of bedtime is also not recommended, as exercise releases hormones that keep us awake. Where possible, put work away at least an hour or two before bed.


Often, we see people out walking or running in the mornings – and far from indicating insomnia, morning exercise is actually one of the best ways to promote sound sleep. Not only is it a great way to reinforce our body clocks, but physical activity also works to enhance deep sleep. Morning sun is also lower in UVB, so it is safer for our skin


Sexual activity can exert powerful positive influences over sleep patterns (although stressing over it won’t help).

Ageing skin

Stress management

One of the most important influences on our modern sleep patterns is stress. This can be emotional, physical or environmental stress, but the result is almost always a bad night’s sleep. When stress is the culprit, the cause, not the symptoms, must be treated.


Sleep is not the enforced laying down of tools. We can get so caught up in our work and our world (to finish that last page or movie) that going to bed while still engaged is a punishment for adults as much as it is for our kids. With appropriate scheduling and spacing of our days, a sleep routine can be very enjoyable as well as very healthy.

Waking must be positive

There is nothing more irritating than a loud alarm clock that scares us awake. This rude awakening can damage our memories and learning, focus and attention, as well as our mood. An established sleep pattern always includes a healthy waking pattern.

Food and drink

Some foods can help us with a better night’s sleep, including tryptophan-rich foods, including dairy, nuts and seeds, honey and eggs. However, caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol can delay sleep or reduce its quality.

Slow Ageing Guide to Skin Rejuvenation is a new book by Kate Marie, Professor Merlin Christopher Thomas and Dr John Flynn, published by Exisle Publishing. It explains what happens to skin as it ages, de-mystifies cosmetic medicine, and presents clear, no-nonsense advice on the many options. It is the second book in the successful Slow Ageing series and can be purchased at Amazon.

Last modified: January 8, 2021

Written by 4:06 pm Beauty, Fashion & Beauty