Does Lack of Sleep Cause Acne?


Do you ever wake up after a restless night with a new crop of pimples? If so, you're not alone. Many people believe that lack of sleep causes breakouts. But is this really true? Or is it just a myth?

In this post, we'll dive into the science behind sleep and acne. We'll discuss whether skimping on sleep can trigger new zits. And we'll share tips for getting better rest, so you can wake up with clear, glowing skin.

Does Lack of Sleep Cause Acne

How Might Sleep Deprivation Lead to Acne?

Before we look at the research, let's explore how lack of sleep could theoretically cause acne. There are a few possible ways:


Not getting enough sleep triggers inflammation in your body. This inflames your skin and makes breakouts more likely.

Hormone Imbalances

Sleep deprivation leads to imbalances in stress hormones like cortisol. It also reduces testosterone. These shifts can increase oil production and clog pores.

Weakened Immune System

Little sleep impairs your skin's immune function. This makes it harder for your body to fight acne-causing bacteria.

Increased Stress

Lost sleep stresses your body out. Stress leads to more acne breakouts.

Now that we've looked at the possible mechanisms, let's examine what the research says. Does science back up the theory that poor sleep leads to pimples?

The Research on Sleep and Acne

Many studies have investigated the link between sleep and acne. The research paints a complex picture. Here's an overview of the key findings:

Study #1: Subjective Self-Reports

In one study, researchers surveyed people about their sleep habits and acne. People who reported poorer sleep and more nighttime awakenings also reported more acne.

Key Takeaway: This study shows a correlation between self-reported sleep quality and breakouts. But it doesn't prove that lack of sleep causes acne.

Study #2: Experimental Sleep Restriction

Another study looked directly at the effects of sleep deprivation. Participants spent several nights getting only 4 hours of sleep. After this, they showed significantly more acne.

Key Takeaway: Restricting sleep in the lab causes short-term increases in breakouts. This supports the link between lack of sleep and acne.

Study #3: Sleep Deprivation and Inflammation

Multiple studies demonstrate that poor sleep increases inflammation. And we know that inflammation prompts breakouts.

Key Takeaway: Lack of sleep boosts inflammatory markers. This provides a pathway for it to worsen acne.

Study #4: Circadian Rhythms

Research shows that irregular sleep schedules disrupt circadian rhythms. These rhythms normally maintain healthy skin function. When disrupted, acne risk goes up.

Key Takeaway: An inconsistent sleep schedule seems to contribute to acne, possibly by impairing circadian rhythms.

Overall Conclusions from Research

Based on the full body of evidence, here are the key conclusions:

  • There is a correlation between poor sleep quality and more severe acne.
  • Experimentally restricting sleep does worsen breakouts temporarily.
  • Lack of sleep increases inflammation, which exacerbates acne.
  • Irregular sleep schedules also up acne risk by disrupting circadian rhythms.

In summary, lack of sleep does appear to be one contributor to acne formation. Both quantity and quality of sleep matter. But it's not the only factor causing breakouts. Genetics, hormones, diet, and more also play a role.

Next, let's look at some tips for improving your sleep. This may help prevent those unpleasant morning breakouts.

Tips for Better Sleep to Fight Acne

If you suspect lost sleep is contributing to your acne, take steps to get more rest. Here are some tips for improving sleep quantity and quality:

Maintain a Consistent Schedule

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This stabilizes your circadian rhythm for better sleep.

Limit Blue Light Exposure at Night

Blue light from screens disrupts melatonin production. Avoid screens for 1-2 hours before bedtime.

Create an Optimal Sleep Environment

Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains and a white noise machine.

Avoid Stimulants Before Bed

Cut out caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.

Establish a Relaxing Routine

Take a warm bath, read fiction, meditate or stretch before bed to wind down.

Limit Daytime Naps

Napping reduces your sleep drive at night. Keep naps under 30 minutes before 3 pm.

Making these simple changes can optimize your sleep. And this may just prevent those annoying morning breakouts.

The Bottom Line: Lack of Sleep as an Acne Contributor

Does lack of sleep directly cause acne? The overall research suggests it can be a contributing factor, but not the sole cause.

Both insufficient sleep quantity and irregular sleep schedules seem to worsen breakouts. This is likely due to increases in inflammation and impaired circadian rhythms.

If you notice you break out more after restless nights, focus on improving sleep consistency and duration. Prioritize keeping a regular bedtime, limiting blue light exposure, and managing stress.

With better sleep habits, you may just see clearer skin. But even if breakouts persist, quality rest remains essential for your overall health and wellbeing.

Does lack of sleep definitely cause acne breakouts?

Lack of sleep does not definitively cause acne on its own. But it does appear to be one contributing factor. Both poor sleep quality and quantity correlate with more severe acne.

How much sleep do I need to prevent acne?

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need 8-10 hours. Getting less than your personal sleep need seems to increase chances of breakouts.

Will acne go away if I start sleeping better?

Improving sleep habits may reduce acne, but other factors like hormones also play a role. For some people, better sleep alone doesn't make breakouts disappear entirely. But it still benefits skin health.

Does sleep position affect acne?

Some research suggests sleeping face-down leads to more acne. This may be because contact with the pillowcase transfers oils and bacteria. The best sleep position for clear skin is sleeping on your back or side.

Can using clean pillowcases prevent acne?

Using a fresh pillowcase every 1-2 nights can reduce buildup of oils and skin cells. This may help minimize acne triggers. Satin or silk pillowcases are also less absorbing than cotton.

Does the blue light from electronic devices worsen acne?

Some studies suggest blue light exposure at night impairs skin function. Limiting screen time before bed is smart for both better sleep and clear skin.

I hope this post has helped explain the science on sleep and acne. The key takeaway is that lack of rest is one piece of the acne puzzle - but not the whole picture. Focus on getting enough high-quality sleep consistently. This supports skin health and your overall wellbeing.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

Lack of sleep affects hormone regulation in several ways that can worsen acne:

  • It decreases testosterone levels. This causes an increase in sebum/oil production.
  • It leads to higher cortisol levels. Excess cortisol triggers inflammation and clogged pores.
  • It reduces growth hormone levels. Low growth hormone is linked to more breakouts.
  • It disrupts balance between testosterone and estrogen. This imbalance can trigger breakouts.

Does insomnia cause acne breakouts?

Insomnia or chronic sleep problems do seem to increase acne severity. Insomnia contributes to inflammation, hormone imbalances, and other factors that provoke breakouts. Treating insomnia can help improve acne symptoms.

Can certain medications for sleep affect acne?

Certain sleep medications like benzodiazepines may worsen acne, especially in women. They increase hormone levels that stimulate oil production. Talk to your doctor about acne-friendly sleep aid options.

Does sleep quality or quantity matter more for acne?

Both sleep quality and quantity are important. Getting sufficient hours of sleep matters, but getting restorative and consistent sleep is also key. Prioritize both duration and optimizing your sleep habits.

Should I take melatonin supplements to improve sleep and acne?

Melatonin is your body's natural sleep hormone. Supplements may help regulate sleep cycles. But melatonin doses can be tricky to get right. Only take low-dose supplements under a doctor's supervision.

Are there benefits to taking power naps?

Short power naps of 10-30 minutes can boost alertness, cognitive performance, and mood. But longer naps may impair sleep at night. Time naps wisely in the early afternoon to avoid disrupting your regular sleep schedule.

How long before I see changes in my acne from improving sleep?

It takes time to see the effects of better sleep on acne. Be patient and stick with good sleep habits consistently. After 2-4 weeks of daily routine sleep, you're more likely to notice improvements in breakouts.

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