3 Killiney Road, Winsland House 1, #09-08, Singapore 239519

Why Does Lack Of Sleep Cause Bags under Eyes?

Pretty cheerful girl with patches under eyes

Our faces help us to better communicate our emotions to the world, but they can give away valuable information about our physical state too. For example, dark circles and under-eye bags are indicative of late nights and too little sleep.

The following post is going to dig into the effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance, focusing on puffiness. After that, we will briefly mention other common causes as well as talk about several steps you can take to fix the problem. Read on.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Blood Vessels

It's no secret that lack of sleep translates into a tired appearance. The facial region seems to be the most affected, showing as pale skin, swollen eyes, darker circles, and redder eyes. According to peer-reviewed studies, the damage can exacerbate into more wrinkles and hanging eyelids, as well as sagging corners of the mouth.

The fat tissues under the eyes might fill with water at night. This is because we spend more time lying flat and gravity causes liquids to pool around the eyes. As a result, we get swelling and puffiness.

Plus, the skin in that area is especially thin as opposed to other parts of the body, which means it's also relatively transparent. Not only that but the blood vessels are positioned much closer to their surface. When those two factors are combined, the skin can appear tinted.

As you skip your eight hours of sleep, the oxygen in the eyes decreases, which makes blood vessels dilate, giving you those bloodshot eyes. Deoxygenated or dilated, blood vessels become darker in colour and show more readily through the skin. This, in turn, causes dark circles.

Woman having headache, lack of sleep sitting in bed

Lack of Sleep Isn't the Only Cause of Under-Eye Bags and Dark Circles

Being sleep deprived, and constricted blood flow resulting from that respectively, isn't always to blame for your facial swelling. According to research, the number one culprit to this day remains genetics. Some people are predisposed to getting eye bags owing to hereditary factors that they don't have control over.

Thus, they are more likely to end up with a puffy appearance after a sleepless night than other folks, and they typically experience eye bags even when they are well rested.

Aside from that, there are many possible reasons for noticeable puffy eyes and dark eye circles, such as:

  • Too much salt in your diet - Eating salty foods not only compromises your overall health but also leads to fluid retention under your eyelids.
  • Too much sun - Sun overexposure can damage skin health in various ways, one of which is visible swelling.
  • Ageing - Losing collagen and elastin is a normal part of the ageing process, whether we like it or not. There is more space for the fat deposits under the eyes due to that volume loss, plus gravity takes over. Hence, they slip out of their predesignated places, leaving a hollowed appearance and making it look as if there are under-eye bags.
  • Alcohol consumption - Alcohol dehydrates your body, causing your skin to become weak and flabby. It should be noted that dehydration does occur when you have one too many. So, stay away from excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Allergic reaction - Allergies mostly affect the lower eyelids, leading to swollen and irritated eyes. Other symptoms include watery eyes and reddened skin. Dust and pollen are common allergens.
  • Vitamin deficiency - It's also been suggested that vitamin A deficiency could contribute to dark circles and eye bags. Check with your doctor if you have other symptoms that could point to such an issue. We've written more about what deficiency causes dark eye circles and eye bags here.
  • Smoking - We all know tobacco is bad for the health, but did you know that it could cause puffy eyes? As your body is trying to get rid of nicotine at night, this may disrupt your sleep, causing fluid collection in the under-eye area and, well, fatigue.
  • Rubbing eyes - This creates irritation to the thin skin around your eyes, causing oedema.

So, before you conclude that your eye bags and dark circles form when you are sleep deprived, you should talk to a dermatologist or another doctor to help identify the underlying cause. If you don't know what's triggering the condition, it's hard to find an effective treatment.

What to Do About It

Woman with sunglasses and smiling face

You can always book a consultation with Dr Shens to discuss if our Korean under eye bag removal surgery is the right option for you. There are also a few simple things you can do to minimise the appearance of eye bags and remove dark eye circles. Test them out to see if any of these work.

  • Get more sleep. Apparently, if your eye bags and dark circles are caused by sleep deprivation, the first step would be to ensure that you are fully rested instead of tired and grumpy.
  • Take advantage of cold compresses. This one is age-old. Applying a cold compress over the eye area decreases blood circulation underneath the skin. As you know, the cold constricts blood vessels and relieves sleepy eyes.
  • Make use of tea bags. The same logic applies here. Green tea has the potential to constrict blood vessels and reduce oedema. What can make tea bags more effective is if you soak them in cool water before application. Always put them on closed eyes.
  • Wear sunglasses and sunscreen when you go outside. Sun damage can make your skin swell, in addition to causing skin discolouration and cancer. The best way to avoid that is to wear accessories like hats and sunglasses. Don't forget to slather on sunscreen 20-30 minutes before you go out. Even so, it is recommended to limit direct sun exposure.
  • Resort to eye creams. Some creams are specifically formulated to make eye bags and dark circles less noticeable. Ask your dermatologists which products work best.

It's worth noting that if you have a genetic predisposition toward this condition, we're sorry to tell you, but none of the above suggestions will help you get rid of bags under the eyes at home. But don't worry, there are cosmetic treatments that can help, such as dermal fillers, chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and of course surgery.


Shens Clinic, 3 Killiney Road, Winsland House 1, #09-08, Singapore 239519

Monday – Friday: 09:00am – 06:00pm
Saturday: 09:00am – 02:00pm
Sun and PH: Closed

(Strictly by appointment only)

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