Lack of Sleep: Does it Cause Acne?

Young woman sleeping peacefully at night in bed

Lack of Sleep: Does it Cause Acne? It may be part of the underlying problem.

Beauty Sleep

It sounds like a cliche to use the expression beauty sleep, but cliches exist for a reason! A lot of times, they end up being true. According to the National Sleep Foundation, seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended. This allows our body systems to go into recovery mode and run at optimal health. Getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours can be damaging.

Did you know, lack of sleep can lead to the development of wrinkles, sagging skin, and dark circles under the eye? And what about acne? When you’re sleeping, your body delivers vital fluids to organs and tissues that need replenishing.

When a person is sleep deprived, cortisol, a stress hormone is released. What cortisol does is encourages inflammation of the skin. Your body can’t replenish the important fluids your skin needs. Lack of sleep causes a combination that messes with your skin. This leads not only to inflammation, but can cause acne and other flare-ups. 

The Immune System

Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system which can make a person susceptible to bacteria. And we know that bacteria is at the root of acne. According to sleepfoundation.org without sufficient sleep, your body can make fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation.

Several studies of prolonged sleep deprivation also suggest breaks in the skin’s barrier function. In one study, rats subjected to prolonged periods of sleep loss developed ulcerative lesions on their paws and tails. This made them more susceptible to bacterial infections. 

What Are the Causes of Lack of Sleep?

Lack of sleep can be caused by many things.  Artificial light, shift work, life stress, or an active social life (not to mention binging your favorite shows on Netflix) can all cut into the important sleeping hours. According to Columbia University Department of Neurology, lack of sleep or sleep deprivation is becoming more common. What are you doing to combat sleep issues?

It’s not only that, in fact, other factors like aging, illness, or specific disorders like sleep apnea and narcolepsy can cause sleep deprivation. Even things like restless leg syndrome.

How To Get Enough Sleep

The American Cancer Society refers to the National Institute of Health when providing guidelines for getting a good night’s sleep. Among the recommendations are: going to sleep at the same time each night, avoiding naps after 3 p.m., avoid nicotine, getting regular exercise, and not eating a heavy meal late in the day. One of their suggestions is to make your bedroom dark, quiet, and comfortable. This encourages good sleep. They also recommend following a routine that helps you relax. And of course, consult your physician if sleeplessness persists.

In order for your body to be ready for sleep, it needs to release melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland. As the evening sky darkens, the absence of blue light sends a message to your body that it’s time for bed.

Exposure to unnatural blue light from your phone, TV, computer, or even light bulbs can prevent the pineal gland from activating. In turn, this reduces melatonin and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

One solution to this problem is to consider blue light blocking glasses. These glasses, which are now widely available, block 100% of the damaging blue light. This allows your melatonin process to occur naturally.

A Pre-Bedtime Routine Prevents Acne

Did you know that a skin routine before going to bed is an important step in preventing acne breakouts? Even if you’re tired, make the time. Having basic healthy-skin habits, which includes cleansing and moisturizing, is important.

First of all, cleansing your face before bed will help remove leftover make-up from your skin. This opens your pores and allows the skin to breathe. Cleansing your face before you go to sleep removes excess oil. Even if you don’t wear make-up, your face will have some oil on it by the end of the day. Without cleansing, your pores can become clogged, which again leaves you vulnerable to breakouts. This small routine can make a big difference in the quality of your skin.  

What if an Acne Breakout Occurs?

If an acne breakout occurs, first look at your habits and routine? Have you been getting enough sleep? Have you been cleansing twice daily?  If the answer is yes to both of the above questions and you’re still experiencing acne breakouts, it could be the type of cleanser you’re using.

Types of Cleansers

For a non-inflammatory breakout, verywellhealth.com recommends a salicylic acid cleanser which is a beta-hydroxy acid. This helps speed the cell turnover process and clears blocked pores.

But what if your acne is a result of sleep deprivation? Well, in that case, it’s most likely an inflammatory response. For acne caused by lack of sleep and the body’s inflammatory response, consider a benzoyl peroxide cleanser as a better choice. Benzoyl peroxide cleansers help reduce acne causing bacteria.

Anti-Acne Pillow Case

Whether you’re tossing and turning or getting plenty of sleep, your skin is still pressed to your pillowcase. Wait a minute…your pillowcase? Yes! Your pillowcase could be another factor that’s aggravating your acne problem. Make sure you clean your pillowcase at least once a week. This removes unwanted bacteria, and keeps it away from your skin’s delicate pores.

Another option for fighting acne while sleeping is an anti-acne pillow case. A silk pillowcase, made with hypoallergenic materials, is gentler on the skin. This can help prevent inflammation and skin reactions. While a 100% silk pillowcase can be pricey, there are options that help cut costs. Some are only silk on one side of the pillow case, cutting down  the price. Pretty clever, right? 

No matter what, there’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep. Keep your face clean, sleep well, and as always consult your primary physician or dermatologist.

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