Anew study has found that sleep quality impacts skin function and ageing. The recently completed study by physician-scientists at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center, commissioned by Estee Lauder, demonstrated that poor sleepers had increased signs of skin ageing and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (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,” Primary Investigator Elma Baron, MD, Director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said.

“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,” she said. Skin functions as an important barrier from external stressors such as environmental toxins and sun-induced DNA damage.

The research team set out to determine if skin function and appearance is also impacted by sleep quality, which is vital to the growth and renewal of the body’s immune and physiological systems. The researchers found that good quality sleepers recovered more efficiently from stressors to the skin. Recovery from sunburn was more sluggish in poor quality sleepers, with erythema (redness) remaining higher over 72 hours, indicating that inflammation is less efficiently resolved.

A Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) test was used at various time points to determine the ability of the skin to serve as an effective barrier against moisture loss. In measurements 72 hours after a skin barrier stressor (tapestripping), the recovery of good quality sleepers was 30 percent higher than poor quality sleepers (14 per cent vs. -6 percent) demonstrating that they repair the damage more quickly.

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Additionally, poor quality sleepers were significantly more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). For example, 23 per cent of good quality sleepers were obese compared to 44 per cent of poor quality sleepers. Not surprisingly, self perception of attractiveness was significantly better in good quality sleepers (mean score of 21 on self evaluation) vs. poor quality sleepers (mean score of 18).

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