How does sleep affect the skin?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
If you sleep too little, you're not giving the body time to repair itself. The nervous system has two states that are in balance. The sympathetic system, which is more in control while we're awake, keeps the blood flow near the core of the body. While we sleep, the parasympathetic nervous system runs the show and blood flow shifts to the skin. Additionally, skin isn't under attack from the sun and the elements at night. This relaxed parasympathetic state allows greater circulation and oxygen flow to the skin, or peripheral vasodilation in medical terms. This is when the skin gets a lot of internal attention and repair mechanisms go into action, much like the night workmen at Disneyland who fix and restore the rides and clean the place up before the park opens the next day. Receptors spring to life within the blood vessels and grab amino acid molecules (the building blocks) to help build more collagen, and fluid and toxins are drained.
Without enough rest, the skin doesn't get this repair and restoration, and all that important activity isn't being done. One example: when excess fluid near the skin isn't transported to the bladder to be excreted, the result is puffiness. (The kidneys work more actively during the parasympathetic state to convey excess fluid from the circulatory system to the bladder). It shows up most around the eyes because there's less fat in that area, so water retention is more apparent. As far as dark circles go, a lack of sleep doesn't cause them (they have more to do with your anatomy, but accentuates them because your skin appears dull and translucent (due to that lack of blood flow to the skin). A lot of research has examined how chronic sleep deprivation compromises the immune system. One study found that sleep deprivation disrupted women's skin barrier function (how the stratum corneum prevents water loss and blocks the entry to foreign substances), and this could trigger or exacerbate inflammatory disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis. All are reasons enough to get the seven to eight hours of recommended shut-eye you need per night.
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.