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Beauty sleep is real, it's free, and it can start for you tonight.

You've probably already noticed that when you skimp on sleep, it shows on your face. Tired skin sags, bags, and loses its luster.

“Lack of sleep causes blood vessels to dilate, causing the look of dark circles,” says dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco. Sleepily rubbing your eyes doesn't help those dark rings.

Not enough sleep can also make you more stressed, and everyone can see that tension. "It makes you look angry, tired, sad, and certainly older," says New York City dermatologist Doris Day, MD.

If you're up late drinking and smoking, that's more bad news for your skin. Alcohol affects sleep quality, leaving bags under your eyes. Smoking leads to premature wrinkles.

That can all start changing the next time you slip between the sheets.

Why You Need Your Beauty Sleep

"Your skin, and your whole body, goes into repair mode when you sleep," says Day, who wrote the book Forget the Facelift.

While you sleep, your skin renews itself. New skin cells grow and replace older cells. "It's repairing and restoring and rebalancing," Day says.

It's also a time when all sorts of hormonal and metabolic changes happen in and the body, including your skin. A lack of sleep can disrupt those processes.

Of course, you need good sleep for your whole body, not just your skin. Chronic sleep problems are linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. That's all the more reason to get your sleep back on track.

Sleep Repair for Tired Skin

"The good thing about the skin is that it recovers quickly," Day says. Get a good night's sleep tonight and tomorrow, everyone will notice. They may even tell you how well-rested you look.

How much sleep do you need? Seven to nine hours of beauty rest nightly should do the trick, our experts say.

You might wonder that if seven to nine hours of sleep is good, are 10 or 11 hours even better? Not so.

"There are studies that show getting too much sleep is as detrimental to your skin as not getting enough," Day says. Oversleeping can actually increase skin cell breakdown.

She suggests taking a nap if you're dragging, but don't sleep in till noon. "You can't bank sleep."

5 Steps to Better Beauty Sleep

Try these tips for a more beautiful night's rest:

  1. Start a positive bedtime ritual. "Visualize beautiful, healthy skin as you fall asleep and your body will go in that direction," Day says.
  2. Get into a sleep habit. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. "That rhythm is good for your skin," Day says.
  3. Become a back sleeper. Stomach sleeping presses your face into the pillow, creating a meshwork of fine lines and creases when you wake up.
  4. Put a soft cover on your pillow. A pillowcase with a high thread count is kinder to your skin.
  5. Go white for your sheets. Dyes on your sheets and pillowcase can irritate sensitive skin.

Just like diet and exercise, sleep deserves your respect. "You want to look at sleep as a source of fuel and energy and health, and not just look at it as something you have to do," Day says.

20 Tips for Better Sleep

See what to do right – and what to avoid – for better sleep.
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