What the science says about beauty sleep

You’ve probably heard the age-old expression, “you need your beauty sleep.” But can a good night of sleep really make you more beautiful?

What even is beauty?

Whether or not sleep makes you better looking depends on how you define beauty. Although perceptions vary between cultures and individuals some aspects of beauty are rooted in our biology, and therefore, transcend these differences.

A study published in 2017 found that quality sleep has the power to make you look more sociable and attractive1. The research team photographed 25 participants following two days of eight hours of sleep, and then again following two days of only four hours of sleep. The second group of 122 participants was asked to rate these images on a seven-point scale on the following axes: sociability (How much would you like to socialise with this person?), attractiveness, health, sleepiness, and trustworthiness

The participants wore no make-up, minimal jewellery, the same dark grey T-shirts, and hair pulled back to control for other factors in their appearance. Despite this, those who had eight hours sleep were consistently rated as more attractive, healthier and more sociable.

How does sleep improve your appearance?

Your body repairs itself while you sleep. Your blood pressure drops, and a shot of growth hormone helps your muscles come back bigger and stronger. Toxins which build up in the brain during the day are cleaned2. These processes improve your appearance in four key ways: 1) reducing wrinkles, 2) improving complexion, 3) less puffy eyes and 4) a happier appearance3.

Reduce Wrinkles

According to WebMD, sleeping 5 hours can lead to twice as many fine-lines and wrinkles as sleeping 7 hours would3. That’s because our body produces less collagen when sleep deprived. Collagen—the most abundant protein in the body— gives structure to our skin, reducing sagging and preventing wrinkles. In recent years, collagen has become a popular dietary supplement. But while we sleep our body releases growth hormone which boosts natural collagen production.

Improve Complexion

While you sleep, your body increases blood flow to the skin, which gives it that natural glow. Moreover, sleep can help combat stress-related acne. When you maintain a healthy sleep routine, your body’s levels of cortisol become more balanced, reducing the chance of breakouts. On the other hand, sleep deprivation reduces blood-flow, causing your skin to appear dull and lifeless.

Reduce swelling around the eyes

A study which set to identify the ways in which sleep deprivation makes us appear less attractive identified “hanging eyelids, red and swollen eyes, and dark under eye circles” as the characteristics most commonly associated with fatigue4: all of which can be reduced by

Happier appearance

When fatigued, the corners of the mouth begin to droop, which can make you look sadder than you otherwise would following a good night of rest.


The science indicates that there is wisdom in the age-old concept of ‘beauty sleep’.  

Prioritising sleep is a natural and completely free way to increase your attractiveness and improving your overall health. Looking good isn’t the only reason to invest in your sleep. But it’s a reminder that the effects of sleep quality touch almost every aspect of our wellbeing.

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  1. Sundelin, T., Lekander, M., Sorjonen, K. & Axelsson, J. Negative effects of restricted sleep on facial appearance and social appeal. R. Soc. Open Sci. 4, 160918 (2017).
  2. Walker, M. P. Why we sleep: unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. (Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc, 2017).
  3. Jacob, S. The Truth About Beauty Sleep. WebMD https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/beauty-sleep.
  4. Sundelin, T. et al. Cues of Fatigue: Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Facial Appearance. Sleep 36, 1355–1360 (2013).

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