About nine years ago, I was in the hospital because I couldn't stop vomiting for days on end and I ended up too dehydrated to see straight. Even after I was admitted, the hurling wouldn't let up. They found my last unshriveled vein and hooked me up to a glucose drip and anti-nausea medicine that made me very, very sleepy. Or, maybe I was tired from the lack of food and coffee.
After I'd been there a few days with not much improvement, a good friend came to visit. I was, I thought, a mess: I hadn't showered that day, I had righteous bed head, and I felt like the petrified cheese that ends up stuck to the plate when you make nachos in the microwave. My friend walked in, her eyes got wide, "Wow!" She said, "You look so, pretty!"
Huh. I figured I was looking good from all the extra sleep, and decided that I'd spend more time resting from then on out. Instead, over the next few years I had two more children to add to the two I already had, and went back to the life of one of those women who's constantly being asked, "Were you up all night? You look really, and I mean really, tired."
Fast forward to now. I'm 38. I'm starting to understand why people have "work done," even though I don't think I'll ever go that route. When I was seventeen, I used to watch those Oil of Olay commercials where the woman said she was going to, "fight aging every step of the way," and think (with my unwrinkled brow and my uncrinkled eyes), "That's absurd! I'm not going to fight getting older. Sheesh. As if." I wish I could say I've held on to that attitude. Instead I have to say that, yeah, I've clicked on the ad that promises to tell you how Jennifer Anniston (born the same year as I was) keeps her face looking so youthful. It was some system, the ad says, "invented by a mom." I was half expecting to find a standard soul-selling contract provided by the devil himself, but instead they wanted to sign you up to get a bunch of pills and creams delivered to your house. "I'm a mom," I thought, "maybe I can come up with something on my own." Then I remembered something: sleep!
My kids are all older now, I don't have to get up to feed them or clean them up. But after so many years of not really sleeping much, I think I got used to it and filled in the kid-free night hours with other things. So, I decided that instead of staying up late reading and making lists of stuff I need to do the next day, I should get more rest to see if that helped. I started conciously going to bed earlier than usual. On the third day, Scouts Honor, my boyfriend said to me, "Wow, baby. You look really rested today." And I said, "Thanks, if by rested you mean pretty." And he said, "That is exactly what I meant, of course."
I decided that I wanted to get a medical opinion about this whole sleep=pretty theory of mine, so I emailed my friend, Jeremy Smith. Like me, Jeremy has four kids, but unlike me, Jeremy also has an M.D. and therefore gets to spend his time writing things about people on his clipboard right in front of them, rather than later and secretly on a blog.
I told him my hospital story, and and asked him why sleep makes people look better than usual. I also asked if maybe it had something to do with that I.V., with being superhydrated. Here's what he had to say (after I edited for my own purposes):
Hmmmm... this might be a challenge.
Does more sleep= more beauty? Sleeping Beauty's
first-ever kiss was while unconscious, so it would seem to follow. I
think the hydration part may be easier to explain: when the soft
tissues of your skin are depleted of water, wrinkles will be more
evident. Imagine inflating or deflating a wrinkled bag (not to say
someone's face looks like a bag, but... well, sometimes it does.... but
I digress)-- inflating (with air or water) will smooth out wrinkles, so
the "haggard" appearance of a person who is dehydrated is in some way
reflecting the more prominent wrinkles. This is the same reason why
obese persons can look younger than their stated age.
The sleep part I am less sure about. Certainly people can get
pigmentation changes just underneath the eyes when they are
sleep-deprived (don't have a scientific explanation for this), which
obviously improve with sleep. I am not aware of any scientific studies
or data about sleep changing physical appearances aside from that.
Hope some of that is helpful. Back to the office to stave off the pandemic!!
Okay, then. So based on the advice of my friend the doctor, sleep might not hurt, but what I really need to do if I want to look prettier is get my hands on a few bags of glucose, a needle and some I.V. tubing. Or, you know, I could drink more water.