Swedish researchers have discovered that the concept of beauty sleep is not just an old wives’ tale, but is grounded in science.
A good night’s sleep really does boost attractiveness and good health, they say, adding that this is particularly important in today’s 24 hour society, which has seen a rise in the number of people with sleep disorders.
The small study, led by John Axelsson from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and published on bmj.com today as part of its Christmas issue, looked at the relationship between sleep and perceptions of attractiveness and health.
Twenty three people between the ages of 18 to 31 were photographed between 2pm and 3pm once after normal sleep and once after having been deprived of sleep. Smokers were excluded from the research and no alcohol was allowed for two days before the experiment.
The photographs were taken in a well-lit room and the distance to the camera was fixed. During both photography sessions participants wore no make-up, had their hair loose and were clean shaven or washed, depending on their gender. They adopted a relaxed, neutral facial expression for both photos.
Sixty five observers, who had no idea how well or badly the young people had slept, rated the photographs for attractiveness and whether the individuals looked healthy/unhealthy or tired/not tired.
The observers judged the faces of sleep-deprived participants as less healthy, less attractive and more tired.
“The fact that untrained observers detect the effects of sleep loss in others not only provides evidence for a perceptual ability not previously subjected to experimental control, but also supports the notion that sleep history gives rise to socially relevant signals that provide information about the bearer,” conclude the authors.
Their findings back up other research showing that sleep loss can lead to health problems and a shorter lifespan over the long term. Just a few hours less than average sleep a night adversely affects neural, endocrine, immune, and cellular functions, say the authors.