There’s a reason why your 40 winks are often referred to as “beauty sleep.” In order to wake up each day with healthy looking skin, people need plenty of shut eye. If you try to cut down on the amount of sleep your body needs to function at its best, your skin will show it – dark circles under our eyes, changes in skin texture, dry skin, and the onset of fine lines and wrinkles.
Cortisol levels decrease while we sleep, so if you don’t sleep, then cortisol levels (your stress hormones) will remain high, which encourages inflammation in the skin, causing flare ups in conditions like acne and psoriasis.
A review published in Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets also suggests that elevated cortisol levels, directly associated with stress, can lead to a greater risk of the skin condition psoriasis and slow wound healing.  At high levels, cortisol contributes to the breakdown of collagen and elastic tissue, which may result in premature aging.
Also, cell turnover and collagen production increases in the evening, so when sleep is compromised, so is cell turnover and collagen production, which helps skin feel firmer and the complexion to have a plumper, more youthful look.
Always Wash Your Face Before Bed
Feeling exhausted is no excuse for ignoring basic healthy skin habits, including cleansing your face before bed. Make sure you remove all of the pollutants and makeup as this clogs your pores, can cause bumpy skin and prevents your skin from breathing overnight. Take two minutes before bed to wash your face with warm water and a gentle cleanser.
Get Your 7–9 Hours of Sleep Each Night
This is the amount of sleep each night that the National Sleep Foundation recommends. Sleep is necessary for your body to recover from the day’s activities. You repair damaged cells, and your nervous system gets time to recharge.
A recent Swedish study showed redder, more swollen eyes, dark circles, and paler skin after a night of no sleep. The same study also found that sleep-deprived people were perceived to look sadder than they did after a good night’s sleep.
If you have difficulty falling asleep, there are some foods and nutrients that can help:
- Melatonin helps people fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and wake up feeling alert and refreshed. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin which can be found in supplement form, as well as melatonin.
- Magnesium can help improve sleep quality, especially in people with poor sleep. Magnesium can also help insomnia that is linked to the sleep disorder restless-leg syndrome. Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, almonds, and bananas.
- B Vitamins: Physical and mental stress cause the body to use up more vitamins, especially B vitamins, contributing to stress-related health problems (general malaise, fatigue, and inability to focus). So if you are feeling stressed and unable to fall asleep, oatmeal is a good bedtime snack as it is a natural source of vitamin B6 and melatonin. It can reduce levels of stress hormones and result in a boost in serotonin, which stimulates a feeling of calmness.
Nourish Your Skin
It’s imperative to develop a skincare routine that focuses on moisturizing and regenerating skin. These aspects are integral to helping slow the signs of aging. Think of the nutrient hyaluronic acid like a big drink of water for your skin. It is able to hold up to 1,000 times its molecular weight in water.
Hyaluronic acid penetrates the skin and binds water to skin cells, infusing all layers of the skin with valuable, rejuvenating moisture. Moreover, when you miss out on sleep, this directly applies stress to the body. Chronic stress harms the integrity of the collagen in skin.
Collagen is an important ingredient in the elasticity and structure of skin. When collagen is broken down, the skin shows more noticeable signs of aging by becoming thinner and less firm. When skin is thin, its appearance is less smooth and subtle and showcases wrinkling more prominently.
While there are foods that can help you get these nutrients into your body, such as bone broth, your best bet is to look for them in a supplement form. And don’t forget to put a glass of water on your bedside table!
Sleep on Silk
Sleeping on a rough cotton surface can irritate your skin and compress your face for long hours at a time, resulting in wrinkles. Choose a satin or silk pillowcase, which is better for the skin, so your face slides against the pillowcase instead of crinkling up like on cotton.
Exercise in the Evening
If you are feeling especially stressed after a full day, the first thing you most likely want to do is just go home, sit down, and do nothing. However, if you can get some exercise, even a walk, in the evening, this will set you up for a good night’s sleep.
Exercising in general releases endorphins (mood elevators) that help release stress, and exercising in the evening makes you more tired and ready for bed.
 Chen Y,* Lyga J. Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014; 13:177-90. Published online 2014 Jun.
 Sundelin T, Lekander M, Kecklund G, et al. Cues of Fatigue: Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Facial Appearance. Sleep. 2013; 36:1355-60.