As a medical student and an intern, staying up all night was accepted as part of the job. We wore the dark circles under our eyes like badges of honor and were competitive about who could function on the least amount of sleep. "I'll sleep when I'm dead" was our battle cry. Like so many, we associated productivity with not sleeping. Our chief resident was famous for never sleeping. We idolized him and all those who averaged less than four hours a night. In our minds needing a lot of sleep was a sign of weakness.
Little did we know of the harm we were doing to our bodies and brains. The signs were there but we chose to ignore them -- irritability, low energy, poor concentration, physical and mental exhaustion. We also looked really bad. My mother would cry out in horror at my appearance ever time I came home. The blotchy skin, the dark circles under my blood shot eyes and the gray complexion told a story of sleepless nights and self neglect. Just by looking at me she knew everything. "You really need to take better care of yourself and get more sleep," she would say the moment I walked in the door.
"Get more sleep." These words of wisdom are well supported by science today. In addition to being linked to serious health conditions like diabetes, obesity, cancer and immune deficiencies, research shows that chronic lack of sleep significantly affects our largest organ -- our skin. Lack of sleep affects us mentally, physically, internally and externally.
In a recent study, researchers assessed the appearance of participants (all women, ranging from age 30-49) by studying their skin's uneven pigmentation, fine wrinkling, and elasticity or lack thereof. Participants also recorded their own self-perceived attractiveness. Other tests determined the rate at which the participants' skin healed as well. Across the board, women who reported consistent poor sleep had increased signs of aging; low self-perceived attractiveness levels and their skin healed less rapidly than those who claimed regular good sleep. Other studies show that others perceive people who are sleep deprived as less healthy and less attractive.
Making a good impression always matters -- on a job interview, on a date and in general, so getting enough sleep matters too. It's the best beauty product there is. A well-rested look is always in fashion. Make sleep a priority. You'll look better and younger too.
For more by Samantha Boardman, MD, click here.
For more on sleep, click here.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.
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