TikTok Warns Sleeping on Your Side Can Cause Wrinkles—Here’s What Dermatologists Say

Each person has their own preference when it comes to sleep positions. But should side and stomach sleepers consider changing their routines to protect their skin?

According to a slew of TikTok posts, the way a person sleeps can increase their risk of developing wrinkles. The idea is that laying your face on a pillow—as side and stomach sleepers do—can cause the skin to bunch up. This, TikTokers warn, can lead to extra unwanted lines or wrinkles on one side of someone's face.

“You can actually develop wrinkles due to how you sleep, called sleep lines,” said Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, in one video. “This is due to that constant pressure and gravity as your face smashes against that pillow all night long.”

These sleep lines often manifest as vertical creases on a person’s forehead, on either side of their nose, or as diagonal lines underneath their eyes, said TikToker and nurse practitioner Miranda Wilson in a post.

“It’ll show up first as like a faint, little line. But as you get older and you sleep the same way, that line will get deeper and deeper,” she said.

But does sleeping on your side or stomach actually cause wrinkles? While TikTok is filled with dubious medical advice, dermatologists agree that there’s some truth to these claims.

“If you sleep consistently in a similar position on your side—which most people tend to do—you’re squishing that side of the face for seven or eight hours a day,” Ife J. Rodney, MD, dermatologist and founding director of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics, told Health. “It can add up.”
Here’s what dermatologists had to say about the relationship between skin aging and sleep, and what people who sleep on their side can do to decrease their chance of wrinkles.

person sleeping on side
How Does Sleeping on Your Side or Stomach Affect Your Skin?
As discussed on TikTok, the connection between wrinkles and sleeping really comes down to the physical pressure placed on the face while a person sleeps, experts agreed.

While gravity is the only force that acts on someone’s face while they’re sleeping on their back, people who sleep on their side or stomach experience compression and stress forces between their face and the pillow. This added force can create more wrinkles.1
“If you do this repeatedly, it can, with time, cause more etched lines or wrinkles,” said Cindy Wassef, MD, assistant professor in the department of dermatology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

But not all wrinkles are formed by sleeping.

“Wrinkles are caused by several [factors]—repeated movements, sun exposure, genetics, nutrition, and environmental factors such as pollution,” Gary Goldenberg, MD, medical and cosmetic dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology and pathology at the Icahn Sinai School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Health. “However, I have seen asymmetry in patients’ wrinkles, and patients swear that they have deeper lines on the side in which they sleep.”

Regardless of how they form, Rodney added, all wrinkles or sleep lines tend to get worse as people age. Elasticity is necessary for the skin to return to its original shape after it has been stretched in some capacity—this weakens over time.1

“With age, your skin does not go back to its natural resting state as easily as when you were younger, when skin was more elastic,” said Wassef.

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Should You Start Sleeping on Your Back?
Research suggests that the side is the most common sleep position, and it’s thought to be one of the best positions for sleep quality.23 Given that there are many factors that contribute to wrinkles (and that wrinkles aren’t a danger to health), there’s no reason for a person to change up their sleep position unless they want to.

However, if you’re concerned about wrinkles, it is possible to switch from sleeping on your side or stomach to sleeping on your back, said W. Christopher Winter, MD, neurologist and sleep medicine physician with Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, and host of the Sleep Unplugged podcast.

“For most people, using a device that makes it difficult or uncomfortable to be on your side can help,” he told Health.

These can include special belts and vibrating devices that alert someone when they move into a different position while sleeping. A more simple solution would be to put pillows or blankets on either side of your body to keep yourself in a back-sleeping position.

However, just because a person can change their sleeping position, it doesn’t always mean they should. If you have sleep apnea or a breathing condition, sleeping on your back “is probably the worst position,” Winter said. For sleep apnea in particular, back-sleeping can cause gravity to pull down the tongue, jaw, and uvula, which can further block someone's airway.

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Other Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Sleep-Related Wrinkles
Whether it’s not healthy for someone to start sleeping on their back or they simply don’t want to, there are other ways for someone to lower their chance of developing wrinkles.

According to TikTok, people can try using medical tape to stop the skin from creasing, or even practice face yoga. One easy fix would be to simply try to alternate between the right and left side of the body during sleep to avoid “chronic pressure” just on one side of the face, Wassef added.

Beyond that, there are also products available that could help reduce wrinkles if someone sleeps on their stomach or side, experts said.

Sleeping on a silk pillowcase could lead to less friction on the face, said Wassef. There are also anti-aging pillows on the market—these feature a cut-out or divot, which lowers the amount of pressure on a person’s face while they sleep, she added. However, these aren’t completely foolproof solutions.

“These all in theory could help, but nothing has been scientifically proven,” said Wassef.

But if you have a good thing going in the sleep department, it may be best to focus on the skin itself—Rodney recommended talking to your dermatologist about reducing wrinkles via a skincare routine.

“Definitely use a retinol-based regimen, because it stimulates collagen to get tighter, more youthful skin,” she said.

A doctor may also suggest something like Botox or microneedling to smooth wrinkles and improve the skin’s texture, Rodney added.

Healthy lifestyle choices can also improve the skin’s appearance, and are helpful no matter someone’s preferred sleeping position—this includes staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, managing stress, and avoiding smoking.4