There are many known side effects from getting too little or poor quality sleep. Daytime drowsiness, irritability, lack of concentration, poor memory, and suppressed immune function, just to name a few. Chronic lack of sleep can also be dangerous, causing such things as low blood sugar, relentless fatigue, anxiety, and depression, which can lead to the abuse of alcohol, food, or drugs to cope with the symptoms.
But, can we now add to that lengthy list a less attractive appearance?
According to a new study by researchers at Stockholm University, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people who don’t get enough sleep do, in fact, appear less attractive to others. Thus, there really is such a thing as beauty sleep.
The research involved 25 volunteers who agreed to be photographed after having had two consecutive nights of good sleep, and then again after having had only four hours sleep for two nights in a row.
122 members of the public were then asked to look at the photos, giving each person pictured a rating for attractiveness, health, sleepiness, and trustworthiness – and a response to the question: “How much would you like to socialize with this person?”
While there was no difference in perceived trustworthiness, when sleep-restricted, the volunteers were perceived to be less attractive, less healthy, and more sleepy – and the raters were less inclined to socialize with people who hadn’t had enough sleep.
There are several likely reasons for this. For example, sleep deprivation causes a decrease in blood flow to the skin surrounding your face, leaving your skin looking drab, ashen, or lifeless. Skin makes new collagen when you sleep, which prevents sagging. Getting only 5 hours of sleep a night can lead to twice as many fine lines as if you slept 7 or 8. Poor sleep leaves skin drier, which can make lines more visible. Add to this the puffy eyes and dark circles associated with too little sleep, and the research findings are less surprising.
Lead researcher Dr. Tina Sundelin said, “People who look more attractive are presumed to have better social qualities (according to a lot of previous research), so it’s perhaps not surprising that others want to socialize with these [well rested] people. When it comes to tiredness, there might be other factors coming into play. Perhaps, those who look tired are expected to be poor company (less attentive, less sociable) or perhaps they may even constitute risk – since lack of sleep has been associated with making more mistakes. Perhaps it’s a combination of these factors.”
Whatever the reason, this study is a good reminder of the importance of sleep, but what do you do if you’re not getting enough?
A few small changes can help get you the shut-eye you need. For starters, create a sleep routine, meaning, you are in bed and ready for sleep at the same time every night. Avoid all artificially lit screens (like televisions, iPads, and iPhones) right before bedtime. Shield artificial light properly in the bedroom (by turning your alarm so that the light faces away from you, for example), and use light at night only when it’s absolutely needed.
If your brain has already established a night-owl routine that you’re having trouble breaking, there are BrainTap audio-sessions to help you such as Planning a Restful Night’s Sleep and Going with the Flow Day and Night, both of which are found in the Healthy Sleep Habits series (found in the Health category). You can try these audios and many more by taking advantage of our FREE 7-Day Trial.
And, be sure to thank the intrepid researchers at Stockholm University for giving you real reason to get your beauty sleep every night!