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What Causes Sleep Wrinkles?

WHAT ARE SLEEP WRINKLES?



There are two main types of facial wrinkles: Expression Wrinkles and Sleep Wrinkles. Expression wrinkles are due to muscle contraction with expression (crow's feet, frown lines, smile lines). Sleep wrinkles are due to distortion of the face during sleep. Sleep wrinkles are caused by shear and compression of delicate facial skin from contact with your pillow while you sleep, creating facial skin creases that are reinforced each night.

What Happens When We Age?

Many factors contribute to aging:

  • Skin gets thinner and less elastic
  • Fat under the skin thins causing loss of volume
  • The ‘skin envelope’ becomes looser and larger
  • Bone mass changes
  • Genetics, health and environmental factors, especially sun exposure, affect aging

Older Skin

What Young

Younger Skin

What Young

Expression Wrinkles

Expression Wrinkles
Expression Wrinkles

Movement of facial muscles results in certain types of expression lines:

  • Laugh lines
  • Frown/Scowl lines
  • Crow’s feet
  • Forehead furrows
  • Bunny lines
  • Lip lines

When we think of facial wrinkles, we usually think of expression lines.

Facial muscles contract to allow expressions we recognize (smiling, frowning). Over time, due to constant repetition of facial expressions, combined with decreased skin elasticity and increased looseness, the lines no longer disappear and eventually become permanent. When we think of facial wrinkles, we usually think of expression lines and do not realize that some of our creases and wrinkles are actually caused from sleeping.

Sleep Wrinkles

Sleep wrinkles are not caused by muscle movement. They are caused by skin being stretched, pushed, and pulled on the pillow surface while you sleep. These lines on your skin from sleeping are called sleep wrinkles, and they deepen over time after nightly repetition. Have you ever woken up in the morning with sleep marks and lines on your face? Many of these sleep lines will disappear throughout the day, but over time, with repetition, these creases turn into true wrinkles.

Stress Forces During Sleep

Stress Forces

compression

Shear

  • Sleep Wrinkles

    Sleep Wrinkles

  • Sleep Wrinkles

    Sleep Wrinkles Highlighted

  • Sleep Wrinkles

    Using hands to replicate the pillow compression, which created some of this person's sleep wrinkles.

  • Sleep Wrinkles

    Sleep Wrinkles

  • Sleep Wrinkles

    Sleep Wrinkles Highlighted

  • Sleep Wrinkles

    Using hands to replicate the pillow compression, which created some of this person's sleep wrinkles.

Sleep Wrinkles vs. Expression Wrinkles

Wrinkles occur with age as the skin gets thinner, looser, and elasticity decreases. Wrinkles develop where skin creases, either from facial expression or from distortion during sleep. Expression wrinkles are an inevitable part of the aging process, while sleep wrinkles are not. Sleep wrinkles can be prevented!

Which Wrinkles are Which?

The direction of wrinkles is different for sleep lines and expression lines, and both appear in predictable locations.

If you see wrinkle lines on your face that are not accentuated by any expression you can make, they are most likely sleep wrinkles.

Sleep Positions

Recognizing Expression Wrinkles

Sleep Positions

Expression Wrinkles Highlighted

For expression wrinkles, the exact position of facial muscles and patterns of expression determine an individual's precise wrinkle arrangement.



Sleep Positions

Recognizing Sleep Wrinkles

Sleep Positions

Sleep Wrinkles Highlighted

For sleep wrinkles, how each individual's face is usually positioned on their pillow determines their specific wrinkle pattern.

Sleep Positions Can Make Expression Lines Worse!

It is usually clear whether a wrinkle is caused by expression or sleep, but each person sleeps slightly differently and sometimes sleep wrinkles reinforce existing expression wrinkles.

Sleep Positions
Sleep Positions

Some people sleep on one side of their face more than the other. Notice the woman in the photo above. The vertical wrinkles around the lips (pucker lines) are deeper on one side. She is likely reinforcing her lip expression wrinkles during sleep. It’s obvious that she sleeps on her left side!

Learn More About Avoiding Sleep Wrinkles.