Understanding Sleep Wrinkles: How Your Sleep Positions Can Influence Your Skin Health

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You wake up, stumble to the bathroom, and peer into the mirror. No, it’s not your imagination. You’ve noticed new wrinkles on your face. These are sleep wrinkles.

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Sleep wrinkles are temporary, yet as you age and your skin loses elasticity, they may become permanent.

Here’s how you can reduce the likelihood of them appearing.

Your skin wrinkles due to several factors, including aging, sun exposure, smoking, insufficient hydration, repetitive facial expressions (like smiling, pouting, frowning, squinting) and your sleeping habits.

Sleeping on your side or stomach compresses and contorts your facial skin more than sleeping on your back does. Gravity pulls your face into the pillow, distorting your skin as it stretches, compresses, and pulls in various directions throughout the night.

You can diminish these external pressures on your face by sleeping on your back or alternating your position.

In youthful skin, sleep wrinkles are fleeting and vanish upon waking.

However, with age and repeated exposure, these temporary sleep wrinkles can become permanent. As our skin ages, it loses its elasticity (ability to bounce back) and extensibility (ability to stretch), providing the perfect conditions for sleep wrinkles to persist.

The duration spent in each sleep position, the intensity of external forces on each part of the face, and the total contact area with the pillow also influence how and where sleep wrinkles form.

Dermatologists often note this phenomenon. People who predominantly sleep on one side may exhibit a flatter appearance on that side of their face along with more pronounced sleep lines.

Collagen and elastin, vital components of the skin’s dermis layer, maintain skin elasticity and structure.

Enhancing skin elasticity through collagen supplements in skincare routines can aid in reducing wrinkle formation.

Hyaluronic acid, a molecule naturally present in the body, supports the configuration of collagen and elastin, encourages collagen production, and adds hydration, slowing down the wrinkle process. It’s a common ingredient in many skincare products.

Moisturizers help skin hydration in different ways. “Occlusive” moisturizers form a light oil barrier on the skin to prevent moisture loss through evaporation. “Humectants” absorb and retain moisture in the skin, and their effectiveness varies based on their water-binding capacity.

Using silk pillowcases may also help with wrinkle formation, allowing your skin to move smoothly rather than pressing into one spot. Consider silk bedding as well.

Research has shown that pillows designed to minimize mechanical stress during sleep can prevent skin deformations, potentially reducing certain types of facial wrinkles.

Sleeping on your back can lessen sleep lines, and incorporating moisturizing into your nightly routine helps too.

Moreover, lifestyle habits like quitting smoking, staying hydrated, maintaining a nutritious diet (including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, yogurt, and other fermented foods), and regularly applying sunscreen can improve your facial skin’s appearance.

Yousuf Mohammed, Dermatology researcher, The University of Queensland; Khanh Phan, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Frazer Institute, The University of Queensland, and Vania Rodrigues Leite E. Silva, Honorary Associate Professor, Frazer Institute, The University of Queensland.

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