As we all know, there are different stages of sleep and getting enough of it is so important for how we look and feel the next day. Ever noticed that after a good night’s sleep, you feel better in yourself, re-energised and even have brighter looking skin? That’s because during deep sleep, our bodies go into an anabolic state where they conserve energy and work to repair muscle, organs and other cells – including our skin cells – hence the name ‘beauty sleep’. There are several processes and changes going on at this time, including:
- Our hydration levels are at their highest
- Levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, fall during sleep, giving the body time to repair any daytime damage that has been caused
- The body makes a protein called HGH which repairs muscles and bones, using amino acids
- Chemicals start to circulate in the blood which helps to strengthen our immune system
- Our heart and blood vessels can rest and recover during deep sleep as our pulse and blood pressure is lower
- Growth hormones are released which increases muscle mass and strengthens the skin
- Skin regenerates meaning dead skin cells are replaced with new ones
It’s that last one we’re focusing on in this post. The skin is our largest and most complex bodily organ, with human skin consisting of 3 main layers – the epidermis, dermis and the hypodermis (also called subcutaneous or subcutis) plus several layers in between. Of these, the epidermis is the key layer responsible for skin regeneration (fun fact: 95% of the skin cells in the epidermis work to make new skin) and so, below we’re breaking down what happens to it and why as part of this process…
THE LOWDOWN ON SKIN REGENERATION
The epidermis (the outer layer and the skin’s protective barrier) is constantly undergoing renewal. This layer is repeatedly shedding dead skin cells so although it doesn’t sound particularly nice, we leave skin flakes wherever we go. In fact, we lose about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells every minute of the day!
Science has proven that while we are asleep, this layer goes into a ‘recovery mode’ where it repairs and regenerates further to continue to protect us from pollutants and toxins that we are exposed to every day, as well as any other free radicals, UV light, sun exposure, and temperature. It also balances and maintains the fluids that our skin needs.
But how does this ‘regeneration’ actually work?
Well, in the stratum basale (the base layer of the epidermis), skin cells expand and proceed to divide and move upwards to fill whatever space remains since the previous regeneration cycle. It is the blood supply which keeps them alive so as they move further away from this supply, they are dead by the time they reach the surface of the skin. They are replaced by new, healthy cells which are responsible for pushing the dead cells to the surface from underneath. The dead cells break away from the epidermis and fall off (a natural exfoliation), leaving space for the new cells to grow. Between 11pm and 4am our skin cell production can double and sometimes even triple if we are in a deep sleep.
Supporting the nightly renewal, approximately every 28 days all dead skin cells which make up this layer are replaced by new ones, so we get an entirely new skin practically every month! As we age, however, these processes of cell production and replacement slow down to about 45-60 days in our 40s and 50s and even slower – to about 60-90 days when we reach age 60+.
There are also many lifestyle and environmental factors which slow this down and prevent healthy skin regeneration. The biggest one for most of us is sleep deprivation. In a world where we’re so busy and so connected to our phones, sleep just isn’t enough of a priority. Sleep isn’t just essential for our moods, but for our body’s processes too.
By getting enough sleep, our body can produce more collagen to help skin remain tight, plump and smooth and helps to minimise fine lines/wrinkles. It also has time to repair acne and any scarring on the body.
Another example of what happens when we don’t get enough sleep for skin regeneration to happen is the dead skin cells can collect in the pores of the skin. Here, they combine with sebum (body’s natural oils) and clog pores resulting in breakouts – blackheads/whiteheads and a dull skin tone.
In summary, we all need to try and get our beauty sleep! Newer skin cells feel softer, look smoother and give us a more youthful and luminous complexion. Although the body and the skin have worked hard overnight, healthy lifestyle choices and a regular skincare routine are also necessary to maintain healthy skin.
What do you do to promote your own healthy skin regeneration?
Let us know in the comments below.