Researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center have found that sleep quality can impact on skin function and ageing.

The study, which was commissioned by Estée Lauder and presented at the International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, evaluated the skin of 60 pre-menopausal women aged between 30 and 49 years and found that poor sleepers had increased signs of skin ageing and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors (e.g. disruption of the skin barrier or UV radiation). Poor sleepers also had worse assessment of their own skin and facial appearance.

‘Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin ageing. Sleep-deprived women show signs of premature skin ageing and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure,’ said Dr Elma Baron, Director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and primary investigator on the study.

‘Insufficient sleep has become a worldwide epidemic. While chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and immune deficiency, its effects on skin function have previously been unknown.’

The researchers found statistically significant differences between good and poor quality sleepers. Using the SCINEXA skin aging scoring system, poor quality sleepers showed increased signs of intrinsic skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and slackening of skin and reduced elasticity. In this system, a higher score means a more aged appearance.

The average score in the good quality sleepers was 2.2 versus 4.4 in poor quality sleepers. They found no significant difference between the groups in signs of extrinsic aging, which are attributed primarily to sun exposure, such as coarse wrinkles and sunburn freckles.

Commenting on the study, PRIME editorial board member, Dr Christopher Rowland Payne said: ‘It is good to have scientific confirmation of the long-held clinical belief that good healing and good sleep go hand-in-hand. As we are on the topic of sleep, I often advise my patients to sleep on their backs as this gives their faces what I call an ‘overnight facelift’.’