Study: Lack of sleep affects skin function

Story by Jamie Lampros
(Standard-Examiner correspondent)
Mon, Sep 16, 2013
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Can’t sleep? It may be aging you.

Scientists and physicians at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, in Cleveland, conducted a first-of-its-kind clinical trial and found that sleep quality affects skin function and aging. The recently completed study was commissioned by cosmetic company Estee Lauder.

The study demonstrated that poor sleepers had increased signs of skin aging and slower recovery from environmental stressors such as ultraviolet radiation.

The study involved 60 premenopausal women between the ages of 30 and 49. Half of the women fell into the poor-sleep-quality category. The classification was made on the basis of average duration of sleep and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a standard questionnaire-based assessment of sleep quality.

Those who slept well recovered more easily from stress on the skin, such as sunburn.

Researchers found statistically significant differences in the skin between good- and poor-quality sleepers. Poor sleepers showed increased signs of skin aging, including fine lines, uneven skin tone, slackening of skin and reduced elasticity.

“Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that adequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin aging,” said Dr. Elma Baron, lead investigator in the study, director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center, and associate professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

“Sleep-deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure. While chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and immune deficiency,” Baron said, “its effects on skin function have previously been unknown.”

Debbie Williams, co-owner of TimeLess Medical Spa and Weight Loss Center in South Ogden, said a study with only 60 subjects is a pretty small study.

However, sleep deprivation has such a negative impact on our bodies that a combination of things could cause the skin to age, she said, so it could be an indirect cause.

“To say it has a direct impact may require a larger study. Remember also that it is during sleep that our body restores itself,” Williams said.

Diet also plays a role in the way our skin looks, according to Williams and another local expert.

“Studies have shown that high glycemic foods may cause or exacerbate acne,” Williams said. “ A dietary intervention with low glycemic loads may also have a therapeutic benefit in acne treatments.”

Jodi Frehner, a skin anesthetist at TimeLess, said sugar depletes collagen cells, making the skin sag. Plus, a person who is sleep-deprived often overeats and consumes more carbohydrates to get the sugar load that temporarily gives them energy.

Getting plenty of protein is important, since proteins are the building blocks of the body, Frehner said.

Frehner also said it’s important to wash your face before falling to sleep to remove impurities on the skin that have accumulated during the day.

Using products with retinol and peptides increases cell turnover, she said, and products with hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C help repair free-radical damage.


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