What Just 2 Hours Less Sleep Will Do to Your Looks

Sleeping Beauty was onto something: Wrinkles, bacteria, and spots are just some of the side effects of missing out on a good night’s sleep. A subject in the study before (left) and after (right) her days of slight sleep deprivation. (Photo: Courtesy)

You might already know what a lack of sleep can do to your body: It can make you gain weight and worsen your mood, put you at an increased risk for diseases like depression and Alzheimer’s, and even shrink your brain

But missing your beauty rest could also spell disaster for your skin: New research from the Sleep School in London and popular bed company Bensons for Beds has found that missing just two hours of sleep for less than a week can have a serious impact on your physical appearance.

Watch the researchers explain the experiment and their findings. (Video: The Sleep School/Bensons for Beds)

In the study, 30 women across the U.K. (including a supermodel) all slept eight hours for one night and then restricted their sleep to six hours a night for the next five nights. Researchers measured the women’s self-esteem and well-being, tested their skin for issues like enlarged pores or brown spots, and also photographed them before and after sleep deprivation.

A subject in the study before (left) and after (right) her days of slight sleep deprivation. (Photo: Courtesy) 

The results: After just a workweek’s worth of lost sleep, on average, the women in the study saw fine lines and wrinkles increase by 45 percent; spots increased by 13 percent (and overall visibility shot up 7 percent); bacteria on the skin increased 16 percent; and red and brown areas popped up 8 percent and 11 percent more, respectively. Other research has found similar results: One study in the journal Sleep found that after 31 hours of no sleep, people’s eyes were more red and swollen, their skin was droopier, and they had more wrinkles.

A subject in the study before (left) and after (right) her days of slight sleep deprivation. (Photo: Courtesy)

“If we take sleep as a wider concept, it is effectively when the human body repairs, grows, regulates our emotions, and controls our appetite — so it’s hardly surprising that it has a strong impact on our skin,” Guy Meadows, founder of the Sleep School — where the research was conducted — tells Yahoo Health.

Related: What Causes Sleep Sweating?

Eye wrinkles were more pronounced after less sleep. (Photo: Courtesy)

But one of the more specific ways sleep affects your skin is through interfering with the production of collagen — a key protein for keeping your skin healthy, he says. “Sleep deprivation is a form of stress — and causes the elevation of stress hormones such as cortisol,” Meadows explains. In small quantities, cortisol is fine — it even helps wake you up in the morning. But when you’re exposed to it over long periods of time, cortisol can lead to damage. “If we look at skin especially, skin cells are effectively repaired during sleep — and to do that, collagen levels need to be intact. A lot of collagen is produced during night,” he says. But excess cortisol interferes with the production of collagen, which ultimately leads to dull-looking skin.

Related: The Exact Time You Should Go to Sleep

Pores were also more noticeable after less sleep.  (Photo: Courtesy)

And while all of this may make you want to head for the bedroom, not the beauty aisle, here’s an interesting aside: U.K. research from this past year found that of 13,000 adults, only 3 percent believed that looks could be affected by sleep. After this new study? Everyone who participated stated they felt less attractive (33 percent less, on average) — they also saw their self-esteem take a 20 percent dip.

Red areas were more apparent after days with less sleep. (Photo: Courtesy)

The amazing part of this research is that it’s not just chronic sleep loss that can affect your body — less than a week can hurt, too. “On average, we are now working more than we’re sleeping in many parts of the world,” says Meadows. But that’s eating into an amazing natural function, even on a day-to-day level: sleep. “This work shows that by just making sleep a priority, you could see a noticeable impact on not only skin but on physical and emotional health.”

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