HILTON HEAD — This week Devon Nelson, a nurse practitioner at Hilton Head Dermatology, talks about sleep deprivation and what it does to our looks.
Question. Is "beauty sleep" a real thing? What does a lack of sleep do to our complexion, hair and overall appearance?
Answer. We all hear the phrase "I need my beauty sleep," a lot these days. So it's no surprise that a reported 50 million to 70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder -- enough for the Center for Disease Control to declare insufficient sleep a public health epidemic.
Restful sleep (or a lack thereof) affects all aspects of the human body ... and our complexions, hair and overall appearances are no exception.
During our much-needed nightly ZZZ's, human growth hormone is released, allowing our skin cells and tissue to repair themselves after a long day of exposure to sunlight, germs, oils and harsh soaps. This hormone thickens the skin and also promotes muscle growth and a healthy metabolism.
Therefore, a lack of restful sleep does not allow our skin to recover as quickly or completely as it otherwise would. As a result, we develop more prominent dark circles and puffy under-eye areas as well as an overall dull complexion.
Skipping out on a good night's sleep also increases the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can work against the collagen that naturally smoothes skin and prevents the accentuation of fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, cortisol can also cause dryness, increased inflammation and irritation.
Cortisol also wreaks havoc on our hair, accelerating the aging process through hair loss and graying and/or thinning of the hair. For many of us, stress and a lack of restful sleep often go hand-in-hand, and, in turn, places even more strain on the body's ability to function properly, eventually leading to more hair loss or thinning/gray hair, more fine lines and wrinkles, darker circles around our eyes and an undesirable complexion.
Numerous studies have shown that healthier individuals will tend to prioritize their nightly sleep habits as well as stick to regular exercise routines and a healthier diet. These individuals' overall appearance tends to reflect their well-balanced lifestyles. I always try to coach my patients to adopt new, healthy behaviors slowly by adding something small to their routine to help relieve stress. Some options may include taking up yoga or dancing, listening to more of your favorite music or reading more good books. You should also try sticking to a particular bedtime and making it a priority to get a full seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night. These small changes can not only improve your skin and hair health, but will also support an overall healthier lifestyle.