Worrying images show exactly what happens to your face if you don’t get enough sleep

By Staff 12 Min Read

Shocking images reveal the impact on your face if you fail to get seven hours of sleep.

We’re all familiar with the advice about the necessity of adequate sleep. The NHS suggests that adults typically require between seven and nine hours of sleep, although this can vary depending on individual circumstances.

The NHS also warns that insufficient sleep can lead to decreased concentration, irritability, and behavioural issues. However, experts have now cautioned that it can significantly affect your appearance as well. According to sleep-tech company Simba, a lack of sleep, particularly over extended periods, can drastically alter your looks. Less than seven hours can result in effects such as reduced skin elasticity and fine lines, new research reveals.

The company conducted a survey on Britons’ sleep habits. Men and women across the UK were asked whether they slept less or more than seven hours per night on average – the minimum amount recommended by the NHS for adults, reports Wales Online. Participants were then questioned about the aesthetic condition of their faces. The sleep technology firm used artificial intelligence to create avatars based on the average national data.

The survey of 2000 adults found that over half (53.6%) of Brits get less than seven hours of sleep. Women (57%) and those over 55 (58%) were found to be the most affected. Women who snoozed beyond the NHS’s suggested sleep duration saw a remarkable boost in their appearance, with fewer wrinkles, less saggy skin, and a reduced chance of looking tired and stressed.

The study also highlighted that women’s complexions benefited from 16 different improvements, including diminished under-eye bags, rehydrated skin, and less pronounced crow’s feet and mouth droopiness. For men, clocking in over seven hours of kip led to positive changes across 12 facial aspects. The most striking improvements were seen in the reduction of eye bags and scaly skin, as well as a decreased tendency to look fatigued.

Lisa Artis, deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity, Simba’s partner organisation, said: “Not getting enough sleep, especially over a long stretch of time, can harm both your mind and body, and even affect your skin, whatever your age. While genetics play a role in affecting our appearance as we get older, skimping regularly on sleep can make the situation even worse.”

Simba’s research underscores the impact of insufficient shut-eye on our appearance, particularly among different age brackets, with younger adults feeling the brunt of sleep deprivation on their skin more acutely.

The survey, based on 3,275 adults aged 18-55 in the UK, found 45% of respondents have been skimping on sleep in the last month and as a result, 35% reported experiencing one or more problems in the past month. In respondents regularly clocking up less than seven hours sleep per night, 12% on average report dry flaky skin. This leaps significantly to 20% in 18-24 year olds and 17% in 25-34 year olds.

In contrast, younger adults logging more than seven hours see levels of dry skin drop to 13% in both 18-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds. Similarly, eye bags could be one of the key things you’ll notice in your skin after a bad night’s sleep if you’re 18-24. Almost one in three (29%) of Gen Z respondents who routinely skimp on shut-eye suffer with this, in contrast to the 20% average figure.

Dark circles were much higher than average in 35 to 44 year olds as a result of sacrificing regular rest. Eye bags also became one of the highest above-average issues in 45-54 year olds. The survey revealed that 72% of 25 to 34 year olds and 73% of 35 to 44 year olds said fatigue was one of the main factors for them skimping on sleep. This was followed by stress in both age groups, with 55% of 25 to 34 year olds and 61% of 35 to 44 year olds blaming this for their lack of sleep.

For the 45 to 55 age group, 48% said fatigue was a key factor in them not getting enough sleep, closely followed by 44% who blamed stress. Lisa said: “At night, your skin does important work like renewing and repairing itself and making new cells. Sleep is like a recharge for your body-it helps with regeneration, repairs, and keeping your hormones in balance. So, a good night’s sleep is not just for feeling refreshed; it’s also crucial for your overall health and skin well-being.”

What can a lack of sleep do to your skin?

Lisa says: “When it comes to your complexion, messing with this natural regenerative cycle means your body doesn’t get sufficient time to repair your skin nightly.

“If you keep skipping sleep, it can speed up the appearance of premature signs of ageing.” Lisa explains what exactly can happen:

Fine lines and wrinkles:

“Collagen, a protein crucial for maintaining soft and smooth skin, gets produced when the body is in a relaxed state during the REM stage of sleep. Failing to reach this stage increases cortisol levels in the blood, causing harm to collagen and putting a stop to its production.”

Skin elasticity:

“Not getting enough sleep can lead to a decline in the release of the growth hormone somatotropin. This hormone is essential for repairing damaged cells and keeping the skin elastic.”

Dark circles:

“In response to stress, the body directs blood flow to vital organs, notably the brain. Sleep deprivation increases blood flow to the brain, causing the veins under the skin around the eyes to swell, leading to a darkened appearance.”


“The body interprets extreme fatigue as a low-level emergency. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, typically released during emergencies, cause an excessive redirection of blood, oxygen, and nutrients away from your skin to prioritise major organs like the heart, brain, and kidneys. This elevation triggers changes in the oil glands, thickening the chemical composition of the oil and leading to pore blockage, which can result in unwanted pimples.”

Dullness of skin tone:

“The reduction in blood flow due to insufficient sleep hampers cell turnover. The delay in delivering fresh cells to the epidermis means that old and damaged cells linger on the surface of your skin for a more extended period.”

Eye puffiness:

“Tired skin retains water around the eyes, a clear indicator of insufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation disrupts blood flow, leading to fluid buildup around the eyelids and orbits. The thin skin beneath the eyes, combined with inadequate collagen formation, results in darker discolouration and accentuates underlying blood vessels.”

Aggravated skin

A 2020 study looked at 40-year-old women who slept four hours a night for six nights, which is the amount of sleep many people actually get. “The study demonstrated that there was an increased skin aggravation with each additional night of inadequate sleep,”

“The stress of sleeplessness often triggers an increase in cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone. Elevated cortisol levels are linked to heightened sebaceous oil production, leading to issues like acne, oily or greasy hair, and increased skin fragility.”

When should I seek help for sleep issues?

Lisa advises: “If you are experiencing insufficient sleep, it is crucial to evaluate your sleep patterns and identify areas for improvement in order to enhance your sleep quality. Additionally, seeking medical advice from a healthcare professional such as your GP, particularly if you are experiencing sleep deprivation persistently for a duration exceeding 12 weeks, is advisable.”

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