If the term beauty sleep evokes thoughts of the slumbering Aurora and her busy-bodied fairy aunts, you’re not alone. That being said, Merriam Webster believes the phrase’s first known use was in 1828, before Aurora was introduced in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The dictionary defines beauty sleep rather plainly, as “sleep before midnight.” WebMD adds more flair, calling it “the closest thing there is to a fountain of youth.” With claims like that, why wake up? Speaking of claims, does research support them?
The Real Deal
Beauty sleep is very real and boasts the research to support it, including an exact window of time to execute it. A 2010 study, co-funded by the Swedish Society of Medical Research, found humans not only detect lack of sleep facial indications, but we subconsciously find them unattractive. With our faces being the primary source of information in social signaling and vitality being considered an attractiveness trait, it makes sense that a fatigued face isn’t our best look.
Working Through the Night
While we rest, our bodies work; not the kind of work that wears us out, but reparative work that helps reset the harmful effects of the day. Our skin benefits the most from these repairs, sometimes drastically, like bumps that are no longer noticeable or hydrated skin replacing what were once dry patches just hours before. Mattress brand Sealy’s 2018 beauty sleep study went viral after it pinpointed the optimal time for beauty sleep to be between 9:45p.m. and 6:55a.m., exactly 9 hours and 10 minutes. The core of their private study is the self-reported benefits of over 1,000 participants. A good start, but not exactly science-based. However, research does support that during this block of time, skin undergoes several complexion perfecting changes:
- Before 11p.m.: Blood flow rises to the cheeks, leaving skin more radiant.
- 11p.m. to midnight: Cell mitosis begins when one cell splits into two daughter cells to promote growth and replace worn-out cells.
- Midnight: Skin cell proliferation, skin’s self-exfoliation process, is at its greatest.
- 2a.m.: The peak time for cell division, when new batches of cells form.
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement): This stage repeats itself as you sleep, each time doubling skin regeneration.
Some of these stages, like cell mitosis and division, happen whether we’re asleep or not. But it helps the process along when your body can repair itself uninterrupted.
Beauty Sleep Prep
One reason beauty sleep should be your favorite skincare treatment is that it doesn’t take much to achieve it. A clean face, products created for your skin type, and a quiet, comfortable place to sleep is enough. Try winding down a bit earlier to ensure you’re in slumber just in time for your 11p.m. date with cell mitosis.