There’s no shortage of reasons to treat obstructive sleep
apnea, including your overall health, your
ability to function well during the daytime, and even your sex
life. Here’s another: treating your sleep apnea will likely improve your
appearance. New research indicates
that effectively treating sleep apnea with CPAP therapy results in patients
looking younger and more attractive.
Researchers at the University of Michigan examined the
impact of CPAP
therapy for obstructive sleep apnea on patients’ facial appearance, and
found noticeable—and measurable—improvements after consistent use of CPAP. The
study included 20 adults, 14 men and 6 women, all of whom had obstructive sleep
apnea. Researchers took highly detailed 3-dimensional images of participants’ faces, both
before CPAP treatment began and again after 2 months of regular use of CPAP.
Researchers then asked a group of 22 volunteers to assess both the before and
after-treatment images. For each sleep apnea patient, volunteers were asked to
identify what they believed was the post-treatment image, as well as to compare
and rate the before and after pictures for alertness, youthfulness, and
attractiveness. Researchers also used 3-D imaging to measure several aspects of
appearance, including facial redness and forehead surface volume. They found
significant differences to appearance after treatment, according both to
volunteers’ impressions and objective measurements:
- In a
significant majority of instances, volunteers were able to correctly
identify the post-treatment images of sleep apnea patients
also were 2 times as likely to rate the post-treatment images as more
youthful, more attractive, and more alert looking
analysis showed that after 2 months of CPAP treatment, facial redness
around the eyes and cheeks had diminished
surface area had also decreased after 2 months of CPAP, a finding that
researchers suggested may be attributed to changes in fluid circulation at
These results illustrate what most of us already know from
looking in the mirror, or at the faces of those familiar to us: when we sleep
well, we look better. Other recent research has also explored the relationship
between sleeping well and looking good, with similar findings:
at the University of Stockholm studied
the impact of sleep deprivation on facial appearance. They found
sleep-deprived people were observed to have redder and more swollen eyes,
hanging eyelids, and darker circles under the eyes, as well as more
wrinkles and paler skin. According to the study’s findings, sleep-deprived
people also looked sadder than those who were well rested.
earlier Swedish study by some of the same research team also found
sleep-deprived people to be perceived by others as less healthy and less
attractive than well-rested people.
study commissioned by the cosmetics manufacturer Estée Lauder and
conducted by scientists at Cleveland’s University Hospital’s Case Medical
Center found that people who slept poorly showed greater signs of
skin aging, including more fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and diminished
skin elasticity. Poor sleepers also took longer to recover from sunburns
and other environmental and stress-related skin damage.
Sufficient amounts of high-quality sleep are critical for
cell rejuvenation as well as for healthy immune function, so it’s not
surprising that we’re seeing the effects of poor sleep in aging skin and less
youthful appearances. One important way that sleep promotes cell restoration
and provides boost to the immune system is through the release of the body’s
own natural growth hormones. During phases of deep sleep, levels of human
growth hormone in the body rise. These hormones play a powerful role in stimulating the immune
system and in promoting
cellular repair as well as new cell growth.
Poor sleep, and sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea,
diminish both sleep quantity and sleep quality, and can interfere with the
body’s ability to rejuvenate cells and bolster immune function. This can result
in a less attractive, less youthful appearance.
But the most serious consequences of poor sleep and
untreated sleep disorders are more than skin deep. Obstructive sleep apnea,
left untreated, is associated with significant risks
for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, heart attack and
congestive heart failure. Sleep apnea is also linked to type 2
diabetes and to greater incidence of depression.
Patients with sleep apnea are at greater risk for accident
CPAP therapy is effective in diminishing and even
eliminating sleep apnea symptoms, decreasing these health risks significantly.
But many patients who are prescribed CPAP don’t always use the device
consistently. For people who are reluctant to use CPAP therapy on a regular
basis, these results provide yet another incentive to stick with the treatment.
You won’t just feel a difference in your sleep—you’ll see a difference in the
way you look.
Our appearance is in so many ways a reflection of our
general health and well-being. Sleeping well, and following recommendations
made by our doctors for treating sleep disorders can help us look good and feel
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor®
Everything you do, you do better with a good night’s sleep™
twitter: @thesleepdoctor @sleepdrteam
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net