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Sweet dreams and sweet skin. 

By Hana Hong
May 14, 2020
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We all know how important it is for your skin to get enough sleep every night. You’re removing your makeup before bed and clocking in the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, but you still wake up looking puffy, exhausted, and droopy-eyed. What gives?

What you might not realize is that the position that you sleep could be preventing you from possessing that youthful glow of your dreams. Although it’s termed ‘beauty sleep’ because your skin goes into repair mode, lying in a certain position for several hours a night could be compromising your complexion. Why? According to Konstantin Vasyukevich, MD, a cosmetic doctor and board-certified facial plastic surgeon in New York City, the horizontal position your body takes during sleep shifts the balance of fluid distribution towards the upper body (which is why facial swelling is usually seen early in the morning). “The long-term effects of this continuous cyclical swelling should not be underestimated,” says Dr. Vasyukevich. “Daily expansion and contraction of the facial tissue puts a strain on the ligamentous support of the face. This eventually leads to stretching and sagging associated with an aged appearance.”

Sure, most of us wrangle and contort ourselves into all sorts of odd poses at nighttime, but everything boils down to three primary positions. We consulted Dr. Vasyukevich about them to find out which one is best—and which is responsible for creating those premature sleep wrinkles.

1
Sleeping on your side

Although it's the best position for sinus problems, Dr. Vasyukevic warns that side sleeping can lead to wrinkles on your décolletage and the side of your face you lie on. “A huge factor in aging during sleep is the shearing forces created by movement of skin against the pillow." You might not think that this is significant enough to make a real difference in your skin overnight, but multiply this over years of sleeping and you can imagine how it could accelerate aging on your face. Not ideal. If you find yourself shifting to your side during the night, try investing in a silk or satin pillowcase to prevent skin chafing and minimize these negative effects.

2
Sleeping on your stomach

I tend to be a stomach sleeper, so I was pretty bummed when Dr. Vasyukevic told me it was the worst sleeping position of them all. When you sleep on your front, your skin is pushed up against the pillow for hours at a time, which can cause cyclical swelling and reinforce frown lines around the eyes and lips. Over time, this accelerates the creation of permanent fine lines (especially on your forehead which even heavy retinol can’t cure), creases, and overall facial wrinkles. The pressure of your face into the pillow also creates more puffiness around the eyes because your head and your heart are lying at the same level, meaning more blood will flow into your face. Not to mention the fact that pillowcases are carrying hordes of bacteria and germs, which is clearly bad news from an acne point of view. The takeaway: Avoid this position at all costs. 

3
Sleeping on your back

According to Dr. Vasyukevic, the supine position is the best position all around for prolonging youthful skin. Not only does it prevent wrinkles due to the lack of wrinkle-inducing friction, it also stops the skin from feeling the pressure of your face “folding” into the pillow. Hot tip: If you want the top doctor-recommended position for good skin, prop your head up with an extra pillow to ensure that no fluid builds up as you sleep, which prevents puffy eyes come morning. “I recommend sleeping on your back with the head slightly elevated (20 to 30 degrees),” notes Dr. Vasyukevic. Props to you if you’re lucky enough to sleep naturally on your back like that, but if you’re not one of the chosen few, try investing in a body pillow to prevent rolling onto your face and stomach.