The Bad Sleeping Habit That's Aging You

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We unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) indulge in habits that actually age us. We forget to wear sunscreen when we hit the beach during summer, overdo it with booze over the weekends, and eat foods that might not be the best for our skin. 

Turns out, one particular sleeping habit is bad for your skin too. Sleeping on your side or your stomach can contribute to wrinkles and an overall aged appearance. Dermatologist Dr. Erum Ilyas explained what happens when you sleep on your face or side to Today. "If you are a face sleeper, somebody who sleeps on their right or left side or directly on your face for a prolonged period of time, there's pressure compressing your skin. So there's a crushing effect that occurs. With that element of crush that's consistently there, your skin can start to break down some collagen localized in those regions to sometimes etch in lines," explained Dr. Ilyas.

While occasionally indulging in this habit is not likely to contribute toward permanent wrinkles, the same cannot be said if this is your go-to sleeping position. "Any time you have repetitive stress on the skin, it can take a toll. When you sleep on your side, one side of the face is compressed, and if you do that night after night over a period of years, you will start to see changes on one side of the face that you don't see on the other," board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon Dr. Dustin Portela told Sleepopolis.

Facial aging is not the only concern with this sleeping habit

It's not just your face that could end up with wrinkles with this bad sleeping habit — it's your neck and chest too.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson told Allure that while your sleeping position alone is unlikely to cause signs of aging, it can be a factor, especially since mature skin is not as elastic as youthful skin. "It won't single-handedly cause them, but these sleeping conditions can expedite and intensify wrinkles on the chest, neck, and face. Wrinkling from sleeping position will be more obvious on more lax skin, which is why you'll see it on an adult's chest but rarely on a child's," shared the dermatologist.

What does this mean for natural side or face sleepers? Should you be aiming to sleep on your back which is the best position when it comes to facial skin aging? Changing sleeping positions isn't as easy as that. Most of us have been sleeping one way all our lives. According to chief of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Elma Baron (via USA Today Reviewed), there's no need to worry too much if this is your only bad habit when it comes to skin aging. "Excuse the pun, but I would not lose sleep over the issue of getting wrinkles through sleeping. I think the greater benefit is really in having a good night's sleep," explained Dr. Baron. There's something to be said about the unexpected effect poor sleeping habits can have on your health and thereby aging. 

The importance of sleep and other skincare habits to prevent premature aging

Premature skin aging can be combated with good habits including prioritizing quality sleep that lasts seven to eight hours, wearing SPF no matter the season, and following a good skincare routine complete with moisturizer and retinol. You're probably not sleeping enough if you wake up with puffy eyes with dark circles around them. 

"Hands down, daily use of sunscreen is the number one most effective way to slow down the skin aging process. A generous application each morning will dramatically reduce the formation of lines, wrinkles, and brown spots," shared esthetician Renée Rouleau (via Byrdie). There are also benefits to including anti-aging retinol and vitamin C serums in your skincare routine. Avoiding smoking and eating nutritious skin-healthy meals can also help.

For those of you who want to try and change your sleeping position to prevent the bad effects on your skin, you can get the help of an anti-aging pillow or make use of body pillows to keep you from turning all the way onto your side or stomach. "Anti-aging pillows are designed to support your head on either side and keep you in a supine position as you sleep," double board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Brendan Camp told Today. There might also be some benefit to swapping out your cotton pillowcases for satin or silk ones, as Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson suggested to Allure. These materials also help with healthier hair.