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How To Look Better Overnight: 2 Beauty Sleep Hacks

Look better in your sleep by getting the right amount of sleep for you at the right times for your body clock.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists. Learn more.
Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Published
2023-01-03
Updated
17 MINS
Woman looking at reflection in mirror happy to look good after beauty sleep

Looking for the latest beauty hack? You may be overlooking one of the easiest, cheapest, and most-natural ones of all. It’s not an expensive eye cream or elaborate skincare routine — it’s as simple as a good night’s rest. After all, they don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. 

Getting enough sleep, and getting this sleep at the right time for your body clock, can make a huge difference to your appearance, improving everything from your skin elasticity to your hair thickness. 

Below, we’ll dive into how exactly sleep affects your appearance and how the RISE app can help you get enough sleep, at the right times, to look your best. 

Does Beauty Sleep Exist?

In short, yes! Beauty sleep does exist. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to: 

  • Dry skin
  • Wrinkles
  • Acne 
  • Aging 
  • Hair loss 
  • Dark and droopy eyes 

When you don’t get enough sleep, you perceive yourself as looking worse than when you’re well-rested. And it’s not just you who doesn’t think you look your best. Other people notice, too. 

A 2017 study found sleep deprived people are seen by others as less attractive and less healthy. People were even less inclined to socialize with those who looked sleep deprived. This may be because sleep loss affects how your eyes, mouth, and skin look, and these places are important for human communication

How Does Sleep Affect Your Appearance?

You’ve probably woken up from a night of too little sleep and felt groggy, irritable, and mentally slow the next day. But beyond how you feel and function, sleep has a huge impact on your appearance. Here’s what happens to your looks when you skip out on beauty rest. 

Skin 

Despite what ads for beauty products say, sleep may be the real secret to glowing skin. A 2022 study looked at how late bedtimes can impact your skin. It found that those with a later bedtime had less hydrated skin, less skin firmness, less elasticity, more wrinkles, and more oily skin.

A lack of blood flow from sleep loss can make you look pale and leave you with a dull and uneven skin tone.

Acne 

Sleep can help you maintain clear skin. Sleep deprivation can throw off your skin’s sebum, or natural oils, and this may lead to acne, pimples, and breakouts. Sleep loss can also cause oxidative stress and inflammation, which are also linked to acne.

If you already have acne-prone skin, sleep should be a priority. 

One study found there’s a link between waking up fatigued and having acne. And acne can easily cause poor sleep, too. The same study found people with acne feel more stressed, and stress may keep you up at night, making it hard to meet your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need, and therefore potentially making acne and blemishes worse, creating a vicious circle. 

Skin Aging and Premature Aging  

No retinol is strong enough to stop the marching of time, and fancy cleansers and moisturizers can only do so much to keep skin looking young. 

But even though you can’t stop the natural aging process, getting enough sleep can have a dramatic impact on how old your skin looks. Research shows people judge your eyes, lips, and skin color uniformity when guessing your age — all three of which are impacted by sleep loss. 

Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just make your skin look worse, it does real damage. Research found those who get good quality sleep, who sleep for seven to nine hours a night, had less intrinsic aging compared to poor sleepers, defined in this study as those who sleep for five hours or less. Intrinsic aging is strongly correlated with chronological aging (aging that’s caused by the passing of time) and largely determined by genetics, as well as by hormonal changes and free radical damage.  

Being out of sync with your circadian rhythm can also contribute to intrinsic skin aging. In mice, it’s been shown to lead to premature aging in multiple organs — including the skin. 

But sleep loss and being out of sync with your circadian rhythm also cause extrinsic aging, or aging caused by external lifestyle factors. 

What’s your circadian rhythm exactly? Your circadian rhythm is your body’s roughly 24-hour internal clock. You have one master clock in your brain that controls things like your sleep-wake cycle and when you produce certain hormones. But almost every organ and tissue in your body runs on a circadian rhythm, too — including your skin. These are called peripheral clocks. 

Factors like pH, barrier function, and water loss in your skin vary depending on the time of day. Your skin’s circadian rhythm also affects wound healing, how many new skin cells are made, and how susceptible they are to damage. 

So, when you’re out of sync with your circadian rhythm (perhaps through working night shifts or having an irregular sleep schedule) your skin’s health, appearance, and age all take a hit. 

You can learn more about how to prevent wrinkles here.

Skin Barrier Damage 

The good sleepers in the research above had 30% better skin barrier recovery than the poor sleepers. Your skin’s barrier helps protect it and maintain water and hydration. When it’s compromised you may develop dry, scaly, or red and discolored patches, as well as sensitive skin, acne, dermatitis, or psoriasis. 

Plus, those with psoriasis may experience more sleep disturbances like insomnia than those without the skin condition. These sleep disturbances can lead to sleep loss, creating a vicious cycle.

Good sleepers also had significantly better recovery from sunburn caused by simulated solar ultraviolet light. 

Skin Repair 

During deep sleep, your body goes into repair mode, fixing damage in your muscles and organs — including your skin. Toxins and dead skin cells are removed, and fresh healthy skin cells are created.

Your pituitary gland secretes human growth hormone during deep sleep, which renews and detoxifies your skin cells. But when you get fewer hours of sleep than you need, your body won’t produce as much growth hormone, and therefore can’t repair and renew your skin as well. 

Damage caused by sun exposure — think wrinkles and dark spots — is also repaired during sleep. 

A Shout-Out to Cortisol 

Stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline spike when you’re sleep deprived, and this gets in the way of your body’s reparation efforts. 

Cortisol can also lead to the breakdown of collagen, which is responsible for making your skin look plump and smooth. Cortisol can also lead to water retention, making you look puffier. 

Your immune system takes a hit when you’re sleep deprived, which may affect the integrity of collagen fibers. Plus, you’re more likely to get sick — and no one looks their best when fighting off a cold. 

If you’ve got a skin wound, this will take 20% longer to heal when cortisol levels are high.

One more thing cortisol can cause? Acne, as the stress hormone causes inflammation. 

You can learn more about how to get clear skin overnight here.

Eyes

We all know that dark circles under the eyes are associated with a bad night’s sleep, and we’ve all probably woken up with under-eye puffiness after a disturbed night. 

This is caused by poor blood flow from a lack of sleep. Blood pools around the area, causing dark and puffy eyes. Fluid can also build up in this area, causing eye bags and adding to the sleep-deprived look.

Our tired eyes give us away, too. One study found the faces of sleep deprived people were seen as having: 

  • More hanging eyelids 
  • Redder eyes
  • More swollen eyes
  • Darker circles under the eyes 
  • Paler skin 
  • More wrinkles and fine lines 
  • More droopy corners of the mouth 

We dive into more detail about how to get rid of dark circles and bags under eyes here.

Hair Loss 

The benefits of beauty sleep go beyond your skin. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to more severe hair loss in women. 

And being out of sync with your circadian rhythm may even contribute to hair loss, especially age-related hair loss, although more research needs to be done here. 

Unwanted Weight Gain 

Beyond your facial appearance, not getting enough sleep and being out of sync with your circadian rhythm up your odds of obesity and can make you gain belly fat

Both sleep loss and circadian misalignment wreak havoc with your hunger hormones, increasing ghrelin (the hormone responsible for hunger) and decreasing leptin (the hormone responsible for making you feel full). 

That means just by skipping out on zzz’s and getting them at the wrong time, you’re making maintaining a healthy weight much harder to do, and, of course, weight gain and obesity come with many more health and well-being consequences than just your looks. 

You can learn more about the sleep and weight connection here.

Your Perceived Appearance 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but sleep deprivation impacts how we feel about our own looks, too. 

In the research we mentioned above comparing good and poor sleepers, good sleepers reported a significantly better perception of their appearance and physical attractiveness. 

What’s more, sleep deprivation has been associated with less positive thinking and self-regard. And even one night of sleep loss results in a poorer mood the next morning. All of this adds up to not feeling your best about yourself, or anything else for that matter.

Plus, other people perceive you as less attractive and even less charismatic when you’re sleep deprived.  

How Much Beauty Sleep Do You Need?

There’s no one set amount of beauty sleep for everyone, and that’s because we all have different sleep needs. Your sleep need is the genetically determined amount of sleep you need. One study suggests the average sleep need is 8 hours 40 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need 9 hours or more sleep a night.

To look your best, you want to be meeting your sleep need as much as possible, but don’t just rely on guesswork. To find out how many hours of beauty sleep you need exactly, turn to the RISE app. 

RISE uses historical phone use behavior and proprietary sleep-science-based models to work out your sleep need down to the minute.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.

How to Look Better Overnight?

Now you know how not getting enough sleep affects your appearance, it’s time to do something about it. Luckily, many of the effects of sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment can be reversed when it comes to looking your best. 

You don’t need to figure out your skin type to benefit from this beauty tip, as good sleep helps everyone. And another bonus? It’s free, unlike many of the expensive skin products on the market.

Here are the two most-overlooked beauty hacks to help you look better overnight: 

Keep Sleep Debt Low 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out your sleep need.

Firstly, don’t stress about your appearance or about getting a good night’s sleep. We know that’s easier said than done, but stress is the enemy of sleep, and stress and the stress hormone cortisol can impact the look of your skin, causing acne, redness, itchy skin, or triggering conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis, or alopecia. 

One way to take the stress off meeting your sleep need each night is by focusing on keeping your overall sleep debt low instead. Sleep debt is the running total of how much sleep you owe your body compared to your sleep need. At RISE, we measure this over your past 14 nights. 

We recommend keeping sleep debt below five hours to feel, function, and look your best. So, even if you miss out on some sleep one night, you can make it up in the following nights, taking the pressure off. 

You can use RISE to find out how much sleep debt you’re carrying. And the good news about sleep debt is you can pay it back. 

You can catch up on sleep by: 

  • Taking naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this. 
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little later: Keep this extra snooze time to an hour or two past your usual wake-up time to avoid messing up your circadian rhythm.
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: Focus on sleep hygiene habits that can cut down the time it takes you to fall asleep and how often you wake up during the night, helping you get more sleep overall. More on what to do soon.

Bonus tip: Suffer from sleep apnea? Research has found people with sleep apnea are perceived to be more alert, youthful, and attractive when they stick to using their positive airway pressure (PAP) machine, a common treatment used to keep airways open as you sleep. You can learn how to get rid of sleep apnea here.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

Live in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

RISE app screenshot showing your melatonin window telling you the best time to go to sleep
The RISE app can tell you when your body wants to go to sleep.

As we shared above, it’s not just sleep debt that causes problems for your skin, hair, and overall appearance. Being out of sync with your circadian rhythm does, too. 

Luckily, just like with sleep debt, this can be fixed. Here’s how you can sync up: 

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Find a sleep schedule that works for you and stick to it, even on weekends. 
  • Eat meals at roughly the same times each day: Zeitgeber is the scientific term for something that can change the timing of your circadian rhythm. Light exposure, meals, and exercise are all zeitgebers. So, aim to eat your meals during the day, not at night, and at roughly the same times each day. 
  • Go to bed during your Melatonin Window: This is what we call the roughly one-hour window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production is at its highest. Melatonin primes your body for sleep, so going to bed during this window can help you fall and stay asleep when your circadian rhythm wants you to.

Staying in sync with your circadian rhythm isn’t exactly something that’s second nature. The RISE app makes it easier by using your previous sleep times and inferred light exposure to show you a prediction of your circadian rhythm each day. 

You can then see when your body naturally wants to wake up, wind down for bed, avoid meals, and go to sleep, and sync up your daily life with these times. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

How to Get More Beauty Sleep?

RISE app screenshot showing when to get and avoid bright light
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

Beauty sleep doesn’t require silk pillowcases and sleep masks. Instead, it’s all about the sleep you actually get. But while we now know getting enough shut-eye each night can help you look and feel your best, it’s not always easy getting this sleep. 

Perhaps you hop into bed early only to stare at the ceiling wide awake for hours, or you find yourself constantly waking up throughout the night. This is where sleep hygiene comes in. 

Sleep hygiene is the name for the set of daily behaviors you can do to help you fall and stay asleep at night and get the most natural and healthy sleep possible. 

Here’s what to do: 

  • Get bright light first thing and avoid it close to bedtime: Light in the morning resets your circadian rhythm for the day and wakes you up. But bright light also keeps you up in the evening. So, aim for at least 10 minutes of light as soon as possible after waking up, or 30 minutes if it's overcast or you’re getting light through a window, and dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses 90 minutes before bed. 
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, intense exercise, and alcohol too late in the day: All four can keep you up past bedtime or wake you up during the night. 
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet: Aim for 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, use blackout curtains, and wear earplugs and an eye mask
  • Do a calming bedtime routine: This will help slow your body and brain down for sleep and help lower your stress levels, which will also help you look your best. Try reading, listening to music, journaling, or doing yoga before bed. 

The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day and tell you the ideal time to do each one to make them more effective.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications. 

Keeping sleep debt low and staying in sync with your circadian rhythm (and using sleep hygiene to help you do so) are the key things you need to do to look your best. Beyond this, though, there are a few other science-backed beauty sleep tips worth trying: 

  • Use high thread count sheets or a silk pillowcase: As you sleep, your sheets and pillowcase pull against your skin, causing folding and wrinkles. High thread count or silk pillowcases can cause less friction on the skin.
  • Sleep on your back: Avoid pillowcase contact altogether by sleeping on your back. This stops one side of your face getting more wrinkled, if you always sleep on the same side, and puffiness from fluid build-up if you sleep on your front. 
  • Elevate your head: If you find you wake up with puffy or swollen eyes, try lifting your head with an extra pillow. This will stop blood pooling around the eye area and encourage it to drain away. 
  • Use a humidifier: Your skin loses water overnight. Reduce how dehydrated it gets by using a humidifier to add moisture to the room. 

Look Better Overnight with a Good Night’s Sleep 

Skip expensive night creams and trips to the dermatologist and opt for nature’s beauty hack instead: better sleep. There’s plenty of research out there showing that not meeting your sleep need and living out of sync with your circadian rhythm can wreak havoc with your skin, eyes, and hair, just to name a few. 

Our take: seeing the visible impacts of sleep loss and circadian misalignment on our appearance may be the reminder we need of just how important these things are to our health. We often adapt to lowered energy levels or don’t notice how sleep loss is impacting our long-term physical health, but looking in the mirror and seeing our appearance change can be the perfect motivation to make changes for better sleep, health, and energy.

To look better, aim to keep your sleep debt low and live in sync with your body clock. The RISE app can work out your individual sleep need, so you know what you’re aiming for, and keep track of your sleep debt. Plus, it shows you a prediction of your circadian rhythm each day, so you can sync your sleep and meal times with it, and guides you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to make getting enough beauty sleep easy. 

The real win-win of all of this? Meeting your sleep need and living in sync with your circadian rhythm won’t only make you look better, it’ll boost everything from your energy levels to your productivity to your overall health and wellness.

Summary FAQs

Is beauty sleep real?

Yes, beauty sleep is real. When you don’t get enough sleep, your skin is less firm, has more wrinkles, and is more oily. You have more hair loss, are more prone to acne and weight gain, and have darker, droopier eyes.

How do we get beauty sleep?

You can get beauty sleep by maintaining good sleep hygiene, the healthy habits that help you fall and stay asleep. These include getting bright light first thing and avoiding it close to bedtime and avoiding caffeine, large meals, intense exercise, and alcohol too close to bedtime.

How long should a beauty sleep be?

We all need a different amount of beauty sleep because we all have a different sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night. Use the RISE app to find out your sleep need down to the minute.

How to look better without makeup?

Look better without makeup by getting the right amount of sleep for you at the right times for your body clock. This will keep your skin zit-free, clear, and plump, your eyes bright, and reduce wrinkles, oiliness, and acne. Others perceive you as more attractive when you get enough sleep, and you perceive yourself as looking better, too.

How to look better naturally

Look better naturally by getting the right amount of sleep for you at the right times for your body clock. This will keep your skin clear and plump, your hair thick, your eyes bright, and you'll have fewer wrinkles and less oiliness and acne. Others perceive you as more attractive when you get enough sleep, and you perceive yourself as looking better, too.

Does sleep help you look better?

Yes, sleep helps you look better. It helps your skin heal and renew itself, boosts blood flow making your complexion more even and healthy, and keeps signs of aging, wrinkles, acne, weight gain, and hair loss at bay. Others perceive you as more attractive when you get enough sleep, and you perceive yourself as looking better, too.

Sleep better. Sell more.

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About Rise
Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

Rise Science is backed by True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, and High Alpha; investors behind category winners Fitbit, Peloton, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
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