We’ve inherently known that there’s something about a good night’s sleep that does wonders for the skin (ever wake up feeling well-rested and especially glowy?). Now, scientists have found one of the reasons why, and it has everything to do with collagen.
In a mouse study published in Nature Cell Biology, researchers discovered that our collagen can actually repair itself—all we have to do is fall asleep.
During the study, they found that we actually have two variations of collagen fibers—not to be confused with collagen types, like collagen Type I, II, or III, of which there are 16. There’s one type of fiber that’s thicker (although, “thicker” is pretty relative—the fibers are still a million times smaller than a pinhead) and a thinner structure.
The thicker fibers are permanent: They fully form when we turn 17 and remain unchanged for the rest of our lives. The thinner structures, on the other hand, are what the scientists deem “sacrificial,” meaning they break down when we place our skin under stress (be it sun exposure, air pollution, or alcohol). And these thinner ones replenish at night while we sleep.
The scientists studied the collagen fibers in mice, observing them for two days every four hours with state-of-the-art microscope technology. They found that when the mice went to sleep, the “thinner” collagen quite literally repaired itself before combining with the other permanent fibers. It’s almost as if the thinner version of collagen could protect the permanent parts from the wear and tear our skin cells experience daily.
“If you imagine the bricks in the walls of a room as the permanent part,” says lead author Karl Kadler, B.Sc., Ph.D., “the paint on the walls could be seen as the sacrificial part which needs to be replenished every so often.”
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Why does this matter?
“Collagen provides the body with structure and is our most abundant protein, ensuring the integrity, elasticity and strength of the body’s connective tissue,” Kadler says in a news release.
In other words, collagen is what gives our skin that firm, bouncy glow. The problem is, our collagen levels decrease as we age, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. So along with the other ways you can enhance collagen health—like through topical skin care products and supplements—it’s exciting that we can help support our natural collagen levels by getting a good night’s rest.*
Kadler agrees. He says, “Knowing this could have implications on understanding our biology at its most fundamental level. It might, for example, give us some deeper insight into how wounds heal, or how we age.”
If you needed a nudge to prioritize quality sleep, consider this a sign to start your strict bedtime routine. In this case, the term beauty sleep is very much real.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.