Getting Enough Beauty Sleep? Others Can Tell

January 11, 2011

Health experts who've been trying for years to convince people to get enough sleep have a new weapon—vanity. Researchers have found proof that the sleep-deprived individuals appear less attractive to other people than those who are well-rested.

Beauty Sleep - Masterfile

To study the effects of rest on appearance, 23 young men and women were photographed after a full night of eight to nine hours of sleep, then photographed again after a long period of wakefulness with only a short (five-hour) sleep period the night before.

In both photos, the participants wore no makeup, had identical face shaving and hair, and looked at the camera with a neutral facial expression; the photography studio lighting and camera setup were also identical in all images. The two sets of photographs were evaluated by a group of 65 volunteers who rated each person's appearance in terms of attractiveness, health and tiredness.

Beauty sleep, according to the results, is a real phenomenon. After the sleep deprivation period, people's faces were consistently rated as appearing less attractive, less healthy and more tired.

"Even a few hours of sleep deprivation inflict an array of physiological changes, including neural, endocrinological, immunological, and cellular functioning, that if sustained are relevant for long-term health," the study authors wrote in BMJ. "Here, we show that such physiological changes are paralleled by detectable facial changes."

Not only does this study offer evidence of the visible impact of even a short period of sleep deprivation, the study authors also believe doctors could learn to evaluate these visual cues to better understand the health of their patients.

Source: Axelsson et al. "Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people." BMJ 2010; 341:c6614 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c6614 (Published 14 December 2010).

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 11 Jan 2011

Last Modified: 03 Nov 2014