It’s known as "beauty sleep" for a reason. And, when we don't get enough shut eye, it can wreak havoc on our skin. Fortunately, Phil Lawlor — a sleep expert with memory foam mattress brand Dormeo — stopped by to clue us in on the science behind sleep and skin health, as well as share a few tips for getting better sleep. 

You probably already know that a bad night's sleep can take a toll on your appearance. After all, who hasn't woken up to dark circles, puffy eyes, and dull skin after a rough night? While a good under-eye concealer can hide a multitude of sins, being chronically sleep-deprived can have a more serious impact on your complexion in the long-term. So, if you’re serious about taking care of your skin, then you need to make sure you're doing everything you can to get the recommended 7–9 hours a night  (Sleep Council).

Here, I'll explain the science of skin health and sleep, and share some tips for getting better rest if you're one of the many Brits who aren't catching enough zzzs.

The science of sleep: how sleep deprivation affects our skin health

While you might think of sleep as a very inactive time, your body is actually working overtime to repair itself — and that includes the largest organ, the skin. While you’re sleeping, your skin starts producing more collagen, which helps to reduce wrinkles and repair damage from UV exposure. Blood flow to the skin also increases, which can help to heal wounds — like acne scars — more quickly.

But, when you’re not getting enough sleep, your body loses precious time to repair itself, which can interfere with collagen production. It's also thought that a lack of sleep can interfere with the skin's barrier function, drying skin out and making it more vulnerable to external factors like sunlight, pollution, or cold weather. Feeling tired can also make us stressed out during the day, which can lead to acne breakouts. All in all, if you want to improve your skin's elasticity, radiance, tone, and moisture levels, sleep is the miracle product you've been looking for!

How to hack your sleep for better skin

A great skincare regime can do wonders for your skin but, for the best results, you have to really invest in your sleep schedule, too. If you struggle to drift off at night, try following some of these top tips for better sleep:

Practice good sleep hygiene

By sleep hygiene, I don't mean washing your face before you go to bed (although that's pretty important, too). Practicing good sleep hygiene means trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. By sticking to a routine, you'll train your body to feel sleepy at the right time, and to feel awake and alert in the morning. So, decide on a regular bedtime, set that alarm clock, and stick to your new routine!

Make sure your bed is comfy

Even if you're going to bed on time, you might not have much luck falling and staying asleep if you feel uncomfortable. So, if you often toss and turn at night or wake up with a sore neck or back, you might want to consider investing in a better mattress or pillow. A mattress topper can also be a good option if you're not in a position to buy a whole new mattress right now.

Do a digital detox before bed

In our always-online culture, it can be really hard to stop checking your phone or emails before bed. But the constant barrage of news stories, notifications, and messages we're subjected to can also make it harder to de-stress and switch off for the night, leaving you lying awake with your mind racing. The blue light emitted by phones and other screens can also seriously disrupt your circadian rhythm, because it makes your brain think it's daylight and time to be awake. So, try to leave your devices outside the bedroom overnight.

Ensure your room is dark enough

If you’re into skincare, you'll already be strict with yourself about wearing a good SPF whenever you're out in the sun. But the sun's rays aren't just damaging for the skin: they can also interfere with our sleeping patterns. If you're often woken up early by the sun streaming through your curtains (especially during the light summer months) you may need to invest in some blackout blinds or curtain lining. This will ensure your bedroom is perfectly dark throughout the night. 

Don't forget about bedding and hygiene

While we're on the topic of sleep and skincare, there's another golden rule you'll want to follow: wash your bedsheets frequently. As gross as it sounds, pillowcases and bedsheets can be magnets for dead skin cells, sebum (that's the natural oil produced by our skin and hair), dust mites, and bacteria. And, when these are allowed to build up, they can cause all kinds of skin problems, from acne breakouts, to eczema and psoriasis flare-ups.

There's no point meticulously cleansing and moisturising your face if you're only going to sleep on a dirty pillowcase for eight hours, so keep those sheets clean and fresh by washing once a week. Use the hottest setting that the bedding label will allow — 60 degrees is ideal — and, if possible, dry them outside in the sunshine, as this can help to kill bacteria.

Want to boost your skin's radiance, elasticity, and tone? Sleep is the ultimate wonder product when it comes to improving your skin, so try taking these tips on board — you should soon see a real difference.