Sun Exposure More Important Than Sleep Position

Could sleeping like this really be bad for your skin? Don’t wake her up to give her this news.

In the past, it has been commonly assumed that wrinkles or drooping on one side of the face is caused by a person’s sleeping on their side.  For instance, if they slept on their left side, the skin on the left side of their face would be most likely to droop, or there would be a greater chance of getting wrinkles on that side.

That can’t be right, can it?  Sleep is supposed to improve your skin health, not make it worse depending on your sleep position.

Fortunately, researchers recently conducted a study to scientifically confirm or deny this theory.  The recent issue of Dermatologic Surgery published their story, and the subsequent results.

The researchers obtained facial photos of a hundred female patients, and each patient was surveyed as to their sleep side preference. The facial photos were randomly assigned and rated by an independent physician to determine which side of the face had more wrinkles or more drooping.

Interestingly, there was no significant association between the side that the patient preferred for sleeping, and the side that was independently picked as having more wrinkles or more drooping.  Also, the majority of women in the study tended to have more wrinkles on the left side of their face unrelated to their sleeping habits.

The latter finding is actually nothing new.  Previous scientific studies have confirmed that professional drivers (e.g. truck drivers) in the United States experience more wrinkling and more facial skin cancers on the left side, but drivers in Australia and the United Kingdom actually get theirs on the right side of their faces.

Why is that?  You might think that it’s because of different gravitational pulls in different hemispheres, until you realize that the United Kingdom is on the other side of the world from Australia. picture of the front seat of a British car (left) should give you enough of a hint.  Because residents of Australia and Great Britain drive on the right side of the car, their right sides are facing the right window.

The same is true for American driver’s on their left sides.  Especially if they are professional drivers, they sit for long periods of time as the sun shines through the window onto their skin.

Therefore, although sleep lines do occur from facial pressure during sleep, the side on which you sleep actually has less of a chance to form wrinkles because it’s most likely to face away from the sun.  This fact is true even if you sleep facing a window, right?  Think about it.

The long-term effects of skin damage are indisputably caused by other factors, especially sun exposure.  A window is not an effective shield against the sun.

As I’ve said many times, there is only one true way to resist sun damage when the rays hit your skin.  We can all dramatically improve the facial skin and limit the effects of aging by using sunblock of at least SPF 30 or greater every day.

Until next time,

John Burke M.D.


About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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