WebMD 5: Our Expert's A's to Your Top Snooze Q's

Our sleep expert answers WebMD community members' questions about shut-eye.

From the WebMD Archives


3. Is there really such a thing as beauty sleep?

There is. Being sleep-deprived can affect the overall way you look. An example of this is weight gain. If you're not getting enough sleep, there's an increase in a digestive hormone called ghrelin, which tells your body to eat. There's also a decrease in leptin, the hormone that tells your body you're full. When you have more "eat" and less "full," you tend to overeat and put on weight.

Beyond that, hydration and skin elasticity can change due to sleep deprivation. During deep sleep, your body releases growth hormone (GH), which affects almost every cell, renewing the skin and bones and bringing back organ and tissue function to more youthful levels.

For many, GH acts like a natural cosmetic, restoring skin elasticity, smoothing wrinkles, and tending to hair and nails. Conversely, lack of sleep speeds up arterial aging -- affecting the blood vessels that nourish the body and the skin -- which has a direct relationship on how your skin looks and feels. Puffiness or bags under the eyes can be caused by fluid retention, loss of skin firmness and elasticity, or fatigue, many of which are triggered by poor sleep. Dark circles under the eyes can also be due to poor blood circulation -- again, the result of lack of sleep.

4. Are sleep patterns inherited?

Absolutely. Research shows there are genetic components to not only sleep disorders but also overall sleep quality. If your mom or dad, for example, was a bad sleeper and your grandmother was a bad sleeper, you might have a high proclivity for sleeping poorly.

For sleep disorders, the cranial facial structure (meaning the skull and front of your face) is passed down from generation to generation. This may have a lot to do with your risk of developing sleep apnea, which can affect the quality and quantity of your sleep.

5. Do naps help make up for lost sleep?

They do. I'm a big proponent of naps. The only time I don't recommend people nap is if they have insomnia -- difficulty either falling asleep or maintaining sleep.