Lying down in bed with broken hair strands, not being able to sleep, you can’t help but feel stressed thinking: can lack of sleep cause hair loss?
Hair loss and poor sleep are common problems for many people. However, many don’t realise that there may be a relationship between the two.
Sleep doesn’t directly affect the hair on your head, so you might think it doesn’t matter. The truth, however, is that it very much does. And it may be the reason why you’re losing so many of those luscious locks of yours.
How Can Lack of Sleep Cause Hair Loss?
A lack of sleep can lead to hair loss due to stress, hormonal imbalance, interference with protein production, weakened immunity and nutritional deficiency.
Let’s take a look at all these factors in more detail:
Stress may be the reason why you’re not being able to sleep, but by not sleeping, your stress will only get worse. Lack of sleep has also been linked to anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are three ways in which stress can end up causing hair loss:
- Telogen Effluvium – It occurs when the hair growth cycle is disrupted, and as much as 30% of the hair on the head ends up being in the resting phase.
- Trichotillomania – It’s a mental health disorder in which a person compulsively pulls their own hair out. Stress or anxiety is a trigger for it.
- Alopecia Areata – It’s when the body’s immune system starts attacking the healthy hair follicles on your head. And stress is widely believed to be a trigger for this.
The hair loss could be diffuse or in patches. In either case, make sure to get professional help.
Another way in which lack of sleep – and the stress associated with it – ends up causing hair loss is through increased cortisol levels.
Cortisol is the hormone that’s released when the body’s in “fight or flight.” And increased levels of this hormone can end up shocking the system, which, in turn, pushes the hair follicles on your head into the telogen phase.
A sleep hormone that’s disturbed is none other than melatonin. This hormone is mainly known for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. But it has other effects on the body.
A 2022 study published in PeerJ showed that by activating certain pathways, melatonin actually helped in hair growth. And since lack of sleep will disturb the levels of this hormone in the body, its effects may become evident in your hair.
Another hormone that’s affected by lack of sleep is the growth hormone somatotropin. Not getting enough sleep interferes with the release of this hormone. And research has shown that growth hormones may play a role in hair growth.
Other than that, lack of sleep has also been linked to a disturbance in thyroid function, which only exacerbates the hair loss.
Insufficient Protein Production
If you’re not getting enough sleep, the production of protein inside the body will be affected. And keep in mind that your hair’s primarily made up of protein, and it needs protein to grow.
In a study published in the peer-reviewed Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 10 young men aged 22-25 were sleep deprived for 2 days, and this ended up decreasing the growth of their beard hair by 19%.
According to the researchers, this was because the protein synthesis was negatively affected, and this could have been due to hormonal imbalances that resulted from poor sleep.
Keep in mind that sleep plays an important role in tissue repair, along with your growth and development. Disruption in this process may end up causing hair loss.
Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on your immune response as well. There’s evidence that suggests that you’re more likely to get sick easily if you don’t get enough sleep.
And so, your lack of sleep can cause hair loss by making you more susceptible to scalp infections, such as:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
Not just that, an article published in Communications Biology also reported that being sleep-deprived could lead to “deregulated immune responses.”
So, you can also end up losing hair by being more vulnerable to autoimmune conditions that cause it, such as:
- Lichen planus
- Alopecia areata
Even indirectly, lack of sleep can end up causing hair loss.
There’s also a link between poor nutrition and lack of sleep.
An article published in the journal Appetite showed that people who get 5-6 hours of sleep were consuming certain nutrients less. This included vitamin C and the mineral selenium.
Keep in mind that both nutrients are important for hair growth. Vitamin C, for one, increases the absorption of iron, which helps take oxygen to body cells.
Selenium, on the other hand, can affect the functioning of the thyroid gland, and the resulting hormonal imbalance can end up causing hair loss.
There is more research that shows that sleep deprivation can result in nutritional deficiencies. Of course, this can cause hair loss.
Does Lack of Sleep Cause Pattern Baldness?
Some researchers have investigated the relationship between lack of sleep and pattern baldness. Findings of one web-based survey published in Dermatologic Therapy found that not getting enough sleep increased the risk of being vulnerable to severe androgenetic alopecia.
Other researchers have also concluded that poor sleep may be a risk factor for pattern baldness, both in males and females.
However, it cannot be said with certainty that lack of sleep causes pattern baldness. That’s because it occurs due to a combination of genetics and hormones. So, you have this type of hair loss when you’re predisposed to it.
It may be possible that lack of sleep just ends up aggravating this type of hair loss.
Is Hair Loss Caused By Lack of Sleep Reversible?
Hair loss caused by lack of sleep is likely to be reversible. However, to stop hair loss, you need to first fix your sleep patterns.
Once the underlying problem is solved, the damage caused by it should begin to reverse, and you should start growing your hair back in some time.
It’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional in this regard. You may be prescribed minoxidil to promote hair growth. PRP injections are also popularly recommended for improving hair growth.
How Can You Improve Your Sleep Health?
There are different things that you can do to make sure that the quantity and quality of your sleep are good. Consider doing the following:
- Create a routine, and eventually, you’ll be able to fall asleep at the same time every night.
- Do not consume caffeinated drinks or alcohol before going to bed.
- Create a good environment for sleep by reducing noise and turning off the lights.
- Try relaxing through deep breathing, meditation, book reading, or a warm shower.
- Exercise regularly, but during the daytime.
- Avoid using your phone, laptop or watching TV right before bed.
Even though some supplements can help you sleep, do not take them without talking to your doctor about them.
Can lack of sleep cause hair loss? There are a number of ways in which not getting enough sleep can affect your body, which includes your hair. And it’s possible to lose hair if your sleep quality and quantity are poor.
It’s important that you do certain things to make sure that your sleep schedule is in order. That’s because it’s not just your hair that’s suffering.
And lastly, if you’re struggling to sleep and/or are losing a lot of your hair, do not hesitate to get professional help.