Don’t blame it on the sunshine, moonlight or good times… blame it on the cortisol.

A Swedish study has found that we look terrible when we are tired.

While, I respect all research, I don’t think these findings are going to come as a big shock to anyone. We’ve all had the unpleasant experience of our own frightening reflection after a night of no, or bad sleep.


The main purpose of the study was to test if “the faces of sleep deprived individuals were perceived as having more hanging eyelids, redder eyes, more swollen eyes, darker circles under the eyes, paler skin, more wrinkles/fine lines, and more droopy corners of the mouth”.

(Guess what the answer was?)

Such are the frailties of the human (physical) condition.

So what does this mean for you? How do you look each, or some days, at work? Whether you like it or not, how you look impacts how your colleagues react and respond to you. And let’s be honest, who would YOU rather deal with – a rested, happy, welcoming face or a red-eyed, pale- and puffy-skinned, sad person?

(This question is rhetorical BTW.)

Reporting on the Swedish study, Sarah Berry in the Sydney Morning Herald explains further that part of the reason for looking so crappy when we are sleep deprived is the fault of stress hormone cortisol.


Cortisol levels decrease when we sleep. But they only do so effectively when we sleep well. If we aren’t sleeping properly, cortisol remains high and this is a contributor to skin inflammation and the inhibition of growth hormones that regenerate collagen in the skin overnight to prevent wrinkles.

And then there’s how we react to the potential stresses and potentially negative situations we might find ourselves in at work. Not well. Again, elevated cortisol is to blame.

Berry’s article looks briefly at some ways to attain ‘optimal’ sleep, and they are standard fare – no technology, room temperature, routine etc., etc.

But I’ll add my tip. Is your partner disturbing your sleep to the extent that you aren’t getting enough sleep each night? If they are, how are you addressing this?

If you need some more ammunition for your negotiations for a separate space to sleep, promise your loved one a partner who is more attractive and calm.

And blame any other state on the ‘sleep deprivation’.

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