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Posted at 12:01 AM ET, 12/15/2010

'Beauty sleep' no myth, study finds

By Rob Stein

A participant in the study shown after a normal night's sleep (left) and after being sleep deprived (right). (Image via British Medical Journal)

We've all heard about the idea of getting "beauty rest." Well, some new research has provided scientific evidence validating the idea that people who get a good night's sleep do look more attractive.

John Axelsson from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and colleagues studied 23 subjects ages 18 to 31. They were photographed between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on two occasions -- once after getting a normal night's sleep of eight hours and once after being up for 31 hours after getting only about five hours sleep.

The photographs were taken in a brightly lit room and the distance to the camera was the same in all the photos. No one wore make-up. Everyone had their hair loose, and were equally well washed and shaved between photos. The researchers asked them to have a relaxed, neutral facial expression for both pictures.

Sixty-five observers, who knew nothing about how much sleep each person had gotten, rated the photographs for attractiveness and whether the individuals looked healthy or unhealthy or tired or not tired. The observers judged the faces of sleep-deprived participants as less healthy and less attractive.

"Our findings show that sleep-deprived people appear less healthy, less attractive  and more tired compared with when they are well rested," the researchers wrote in a paper published in the BMJ, a British medical journal. "This suggests that humans are sensitive to sleep-related facial cues, with potential implications for social and clinical judgments and behavior."

More on sleep

Why lack of sleep hinders weight loss.

How digital diversions keep us sleep deprived.

What is it that puts you to sleep?

The Checkup blog on sleep.


Update: The caption above has been corrected to properly reflect that the left image is after normal sleep and the right image is after sleep deprivation. - GL

By Rob Stein  | December 15, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
Categories:  Sleep  
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Comments

It looks to me as if the pic on the left actually looks more alert than the photo on the right.

Posted by: Domesticrat | December 15, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

It looks to me as if the pic on the left actually looks more alert than the photo on the right.

Posted by: Domesticrat | December


DITTO!

Posted by: nall92 | December 15, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Beauty is subjective - I prefer the picture on the left.

Posted by: priscila | December 15, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

@Domesticrat: Maybe, but it is a less attractive version of the man. He may look more alert because subconscious facial muscles are having to work harder to stay awake, and are thus overcompensating. He looks more alert, but he looks noticeably dorkier (pardon the language).

Posted by: crzytwnman | December 15, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

'"Our findings show that sleep-deprived people appear less healthy, less attractive and more tired compared with when they are well rested," the researchers wrote in a paper'.....whoa, that just blew my mind!

Posted by: ezcheese81 | December 15, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

You're both correct. Thanks for spotting that error I made in writing the caption. I've corrected it and noted the update at the bottom of the post.

Greg Linch
Web Producer for Science, Health, Environment
The Washington Post

Posted by: Greg Linch | December 15, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Much rather be a man hitting 50 than a woman. Woman have such a short time in the spotlight before everything sags & drags.
America is brutal on women.

Posted by: TaxiDriver | December 15, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

It took a study to figure this out? Some things are just so darn obvious.

Posted by: loco71 | December 15, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

prior to the advent of electric light, we averaged 9 hours sleep per night. now that is down to just over 7 hours. i've religiously kept a dream journal since i was 14 in 1968 and know that the less sleep the less dreams and the less dreams the less rested.

speaking of electricity, old tom edison was for many years merck's poster boy for its trademark and 70-year flagship drug, cocaine. when retiring, he said, "if not for cocaine, you might still be reading by candlelight." and he claimed that he just needed to sleep long enough a night to have some good, deep dreaming; said dreams not only gave rest but ideas.

sleep, folks, sleep. or like i say, 'carpe diem! – take a nap!'

Posted by: tazdelaney | December 15, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

There's no difference between the photos, except he's smiling more on the left. People are always going to be attracted to the smiling photo.

In fact, they are supposed to have neutral facial expressions so the example above is useless. Usually the eyes are the giveaway when it comes to lack of sleep. I don't see any bags.

Posted by: fitzroysq | December 15, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

What a waste of time and money.

Posted by: Straightline | December 15, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

He looks more like a thug on the right, so no doubt more women will find the picture on the right more attractive.

Posted by: scoran | December 15, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

He looks more like a thug on the right, so no doubt more women will find the picture on the right more attractive.

Posted by: scoran

~~~

Funny that you say that, because I did find the pic on the right to be more attractive.

He looks like a "dork" in the picture on the left.

Go figure.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | December 15, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

No wonder my wife looks so much better than I do. Quiet, domestic goddess at rest.

Posted by: BluePelican | December 15, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

To sleep, perchance to dream.

Posted by: dbedwards2003 | December 15, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

so glad that good time and money is being spent on this important research

Posted by: bikinibottom | December 15, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

prior to the advent of electric light, we averaged 9 hours sleep per night. now that is down to just over 7 hours. i've religiously kept a dream journal since i was 14 in 1968 and know that the less sleep the less dreams and the less dreams the less rested.

speaking of electricity, old tom edison was for many years merck's poster boy for its trademark and 70-year flagship drug, cocaine. when retiring, he said, "if not for cocaine, you might still be reading by candlelight." and he claimed that he just needed to sleep long enough a night to have some good, deep dreaming; said dreams not only gave rest but ideas.

sleep, folks, sleep. or like i say, 'carpe diem! – take a nap!'

Posted by: tazdelaney | December 15, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Nice idea but how do you control for things like subjects smiling in one picture and not in another. You can't force them to use identical facial expressions, and being tired is going to affect their mood, which affects their expression -- but not necessarily their underlying structure.

Plus there's a "duh" factor here. Sleep deprived people will have circles under eyes, maybe rheumy eyes, puffy cheeks, almost symptoms of illness. Don't need a study to tell me that.

Posted by: tboyer33 | December 15, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

All these researchers really needed to do is look at someone who's stayed up all night -- whether studying for finals or out partying -- and it would have been obvious that skipping sleep makes you a mess.

Posted by: tomguy1 | December 15, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

In the example above it looks as if sleep didn't do anything to improve matters. Maybe a razor and a bath would work better.

Posted by: 44fx2901 | December 15, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Much of science is just quantifying what we already know anectodotally. We're just trying to find out whether these assumptions hold up under the scientific method. In many cases they will, but in some cases, we find out that our assumptions are wrong. Either way, it is money well spent.

Posted by: rosefarm1 | December 15, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Gee, what 4 year old didn't know this?

A complete waste of precious research funding.

What next, humans function better when not starved?

Posted by: dokadow | December 15, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

pathetic

Posted by: Send_in_the_clowns | December 15, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm not interested in how I look without sleep; I'll be just as unattractive. I'm more concerned with how the rest of the world looks to me if I'm sleep deprived - and it ain't good.

Posted by: MidwaySailor76 | December 15, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"prior to the advent of electric light, we averaged 9 hours sleep per night. now that is down to just over 7 hours"

What's your source for that, tazdelaney?

Posted by: bupdaddy | December 15, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I can't answer the poll because I don't have a partner. I can tell you that I look better after a good night's sleep, though. Or do I need confirmation from a member of the opposite sex?

Posted by: duhneese | December 15, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting that the subject's face is paler in the right image, presumably one of the reason's that (to many people) he would appear less healthy and therefore less attractive. What is less clear is whether there is a true difference in the person's complexation. As it turns out, the gray background is also significantly lighter in the right image, calling into question whether the same exposure conditions were used. It would be informative to hear the authors' explanation for this apparent discrepancy.

Posted by: jshear | December 15, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse


Very true that major brands do give out samples on their products, search online for "123 Get Samples" we just got ours today. You wont need CC.

Posted by: ninaramey16 | December 16, 2010 5:25 AM | Report abuse

Wow, that is amazing. Who would have thunk it??

www.internet-privacy.edu.tc

Posted by: clermontpc | December 16, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

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