Q: The whole “beauty sleep” thing is an old myth, right?
A: Nope. There is actual scientific evidence suggesting that you look your best when you've had a good night's rest.
An experiment was published in 2010 in the British Medical Journal that examined the relationship between sleep and attractiveness.
A group of 23 adults (men and women) had photographs of their faces taken at two times:
After a normal night's sleep (8 hours)
After being sleep deprived (a reduced night of 5 hours of sleep followed by 31 straight hours of being kept awake)
The participants were asked to have a “neutral, relaxed expression” in all the photos.
The sleep happened in the participants' own homes and they tracked their sleep using sleep diaries and texting the laboratory.
Then, the photographs were shown randomly to 65 observers who were unaware of the purpose of the study.
- The observers saw each face for 6 seconds over three sessions.
- The observers rated the faces on three characteristics:
The sleep deprived photographs were rated as:
- Less healthy
- Less attractive
- More tired
Some of the same researchers of the previous study then followed up with a second study, published in 2013 in the journal Sleep.
This time they wanted to know exactly what features were affected by sleep deprivation and had the biggest effect on ratings.
Again, the procedure was the same. Participants were photographed either after a good 8-hour night of sleep, or a 31-hour period of sleep deprivation.
This time, 50 students and 10 researchers from several countries were asked what “cues” they associate with losing sleep. The respondents answered:
- Hanging eyelids
- Red eyes
- Swollen eyes
- Glazed eyes, dark circles under the eyes
- Pale skin
- Droopy corners of the mouth
Then once again, they got 40 participants to rate the photographs. This time the photographs were rated on the “cues” that were given above (red eyes, pale skin, etc.) and also Fatigue and Sadness.
The sleep-deprived photographs were rated as:
- More fatigued
- More hanging eyelids
- Redder eyes
- More swollen eyes
- Darker circles under the eyes
- Paler skin
- More wrinkles and fine lines around the eyes
- Corners of the mouth more droopy
- More sad
Thus, being sleep deprived was associated with not only a large number of unattractive features, but also psychological characteristics like sadness and obvious fatigue.
Have a big day tomorrow where you'll need to look your best? You could either:
- Stay up all night worrying about it, studying (cramming), drinking, practicing what you'll say, etc. OR
The research says you need to SLEEP. Not only does sleep deprivation cause all sorts of behavioral and cognitive problems, it also makes you look WORSE. And let's face it – looking your best is a huge part of making a good impression.
And I don't want to hear, “But wait, what if I need to study and practice?” Guys – you shouldn't have waited until the night before to do this.
Axelsson, J., Sundelin, T., Ingre, M., Van Someren, E. J. W., Olsson, A., & Lekander, M. (2010). Beauty sleep: Experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. British Medical Journal, 341(7786), 1287-1289. Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25766546
Sundelin, T., Lekander, M., Kecklund, G., Van Someren, E. J. W., Olsson, A., & Axelsson, J. (2013). Cues of fatigue: Effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance. Sleep, 36(9), 1355-1360. Link: https://dx.doi.org/10.5665/sleep.2964