Even if you’re sleeping through the night, one major sleep mistake could be putting you at risk for breakouts, inflammation, and premature aging: your sleeping position.
How does your sleeping position affect aging?
According to experts, sleeping on your stomach can be extremely detrimental to your complexion. One of the major concerns here is that when you sleep on your stomach, the friction of your face against the pillow can cause the formation of premature lines and wrinkles.
“Sleep wrinkles are real and can be permanent. Sure, sleeping on your face for a night after a bender won’t create permanent lines, but if you sleep on your face night after night, year after year, then those sleep wrinkles will eventually stay there permanently,” Dr. Anthony Youn, a board-certified plastic surgeon said.
Cosmetic doctor and plastic surgeon Konstantin Vasyukevich said that this is caused by cyclical swelling and can result in deep forehead lines that not even the most intense retinoids can cure.
It can also affect the health of your skin
Wrinkles aren’t the only issue your skin faces with stomach sleeping, though. Laying your head on the same pillowcase night after night can lead to breakouts the next day.
“Your skin and hair leave oil and buildup that can cause breakouts, inflammation, and irritation,” Joel Schlessinger, a board-certified dermatologist said, “You should aim to wash your sheets at least once a week to avoid this transfer of bacteria, oils, and other impurities.”
Not only that, but Schlessinger also said if you aren’t washing your face before bed, you could be making the situation even worse.
“The makeup, oil, environmental pollutants, and harmful free radicals you’ve gathered on your skin after a long day of work seeps deeply into your pores causing breakouts and speeding up the aging process,” he said. “It can also cause dryness, irritation and infection.”
Just make sure you wait a few minutes after applying any night creams before turning in for the night, or you’ll just have more buildup on your pillowcases.
“In addition to transferring your night creams to the pillowcase,” Dermatologist Kachiu Lee said, “the pillowcase is also transferring a host of bacteria and other debris to your face. If you keep getting unexplained acne eruptions on the side of your face, your dirty pillowcase may be the cause.”
So, stomach sleeping is definitely something to avoid, but what about side sleeping? This is one of the most popular sleeping positions, but unfortunately, it might not be much better than the latter when it comes to skincare.
According to Vasyukevic, sleeping on your side can lead to wrinkles on your decolletage and the side of the face you sleep on.
“A huge factor in aging during sleep is the shearing forces created by movement of skin against the pillow,” he said.
Lee explained how this can result in somewhat lopsided skin features when it comes to aging.
“These lines often appear in parallel along the temples, around the eyes, the lateral cheek area and around the mouth,” Lee said. “People who have been sleeping on the same side for years often have noticeably more ‘sleep lines’ on the side that they sleep on.”
Most experts agree that the best position to sleep in is face-up, or on your back.
“This position keeps everything off your face, including dirt and oil from the pillow and grease from your hair, and prevents any friction to the skin that can stretch collagen fibers and lead to wrinkles,” Breus said.
Not only is sleeping on your back good for your skin, but most health and sleep experts agree that this is the best position for your overall health. It protects your spine and muscles and allows your body to function at its best — most of the time. If you struggle with snoring, sleep apnea or acid reflux, you may be the exception here.
“I recommend sleeping on your back with the head slightly elevated,” Vasyukevic noted.
This helps to reduce the flow of the blood to your head, which will reduce swelling in the morning.
What can you do?
Only about eight percent of people actually sleep on their backs naturally. So, for the majority, this will require some training to master.
If you must sleep on your stomach or your side, there are still some preventative measures you can take. Healthline said sleeping with a silk pillowcase can minimize skin irritation and possibly even help reduce fine lines.
Schlessinger supported this, saying silk pillowcases can make a huge difference here.
“This smooth fabric prevents creasing and wrinkles on your complexion and creates less friction than cotton so your skin meets less resistance as you sleep,” he said.