Whilst there’s no direct causal link, plenty of evidence suggests that poor sleep could contribute to many factors that cause hair loss in men and women.
The increased levels of stress that result from the lack of sleep, and the reduced capacity for normal cellular functioning, may result in conditions of hair loss or thinning hair as well.
There are many reasons why an individual may lack appropriate sleep, many of which can be addressed to help promote better rest.
If you are experiencing a lack of sleep it is important for you to address the cause or take steps to promote better sleep, which may require consultation with your physician.
Impact of lack of sleep on the body
According the the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute sleep plays an important role in proper health and overall wellness in your body. During sleep cycles the body is able to work on supporting brain function as well as the maintenance and upkeep of physical health.
Sleep is important for healthy brain function and emotional well being, overall physical health, daily performance, as well as safety.
In general, the research suggests that the lack of sleep will lead to a variety of issues within the body and can even trigger inherited issues that may otherwise wait longer to appear.
The negative impact of the lack of sleep on the body is very likely to impact the process of hair growth and may even be linked directly to hair loss and thinning hair.
How lack of sleep affects hair loss
Insufficient amounts of sleep have been shown to have significant negative consequences on the body, which can lead directly and indirectly to conditions of hair loss and thinning hair.
The lack of sleep can result in higher levels of stress which is shown to cause hair loss.
In the image below we can see how scalp tension corresponds with the typical ‘male pattern baldness.’
So if stress and tension go together, it’s clear that there can be a direct impact.
The body also undergoes numerous cycles during sleep, which promote the stem cell activity that generates epithelial cells for hair growth.
Sleep, stress and hair loss
Research published in the American Journal of Pathology discusses the relationship between stress and the process of hair growth.
The prolonged stress response can have a negative impact on the skin and its capacity to function appropriately which can directly impact the hair follicle.
The study also suggests that the release of hormones, neurotransmitters, and cytokines during a stress respond can significantly influence the growth of hair.
There is evidence to suggest that hair follicles and the hair growth cycle are significantly impacted by stress, which can lead to unhealthy hair growth and hair loss.
>> Read More: What Happens To Your Hormones When You’re Asleep?
An article from the National Institutes of Health further suggest that sleep plays a role in hair growth. The activity of adult stem cells relies on the internal circadian clock to orchestrate the proliferation of the hair growth cycle.
This study suggests that disruptions to the sleep cycle of an organism can have a significant impact on the biologic functions taking place in the hair follicle where hair growth is initiated:
SourceThe inability of the body to function normally due to lack of sleep reduces overall physical health and wellness.The fact that lacking sleep is a significant source of stress may also trigger the beginning of genetically-influenced hair loss such as male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss.
The best ways to improve sleep
Increase the amount of daily exercise you do. Try to get at least 30 minutes per day of cardio exercise. Resistance training like weight lifting is also a good idea 3 times per week.
Get a standing desk at work. Although it may not be convenient to turn your sitting desk into a standing desk, if you do have the chance it is well worth it. it also improves posture which can help with hair loss.
Do 5 minutes of deep breathing 30 minutes before bed time. Deep breathing will help oxygenate the lungs, helping to deliver more nutrients to the hair follicles.
Aside from this, it will also help you sleep and help reduce cortisol. Deep breathing is a form of meditation, so you’ll also help your mind relax.
Cut out computer screens 2 hours before bed time. Computer screens (phones, tablets, desktops) all emit light that can stop us sleeping. This particular spectrum of light is associated with midday, and therefore the body believes it’s the middle of the day making it hard to sleep for at least an hour after being exposed to this kind of light.
You can use an app called Luxe that changes the wavelength of the light making it more like the light as sunset.
Cut out any form of caffeine 8 hours before bed time. We all know caffeine helps wake us up but it can stay in our system keeping us awake for longer than we think. If you’re sensitive to caffeine then don’t drink it 8 hours before you plan to go to bed.
Get out of bed and go do something if you can’t sleep. Don’t just lie in bed if you can’t sleep. This trains your brain that bed does not equal sleep, whereas we actually want the opposite to happen. If you can’t sleep for more than 25 minutes then get out of bed and make a cup of chamomile tea, or turn on the light and read a non-fiction book.
Get up as soon as you wake up. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help promote good sleep according to the National Institute on Aging.
Drink chamomile tea 45 minutes before bed time. Chamomile tea is a great way to relax your body and get it ready for sleep. I try to drink it around 45 minutes before bed so that I can pee once before I sleep and don’t have to in the night.
The effects also take around 45 minutes to kick in so you should start feeling nice and sleepy just as you bed down.
Read (fiction) for 25 minutes before lights out. Reading a (paper) book is a great way to relax the mind before bed. Just make sure you read fiction books. If you’re like me you’ll want to read a science book, but that doesn’t help your mind relax, so choose a story that will allow you to drift off.
Keep a diary and write down your thoughts before sleeping. It’s often the thoughts rushing around in our head that keep us from sleeping. Thinking about this or that, worrying about something or other. Many people find that if you write your thoughts down on paper it can help you to stop thinking about them.
Get outside and try heliotherapy. Not getting enough sunlight can make your sleep worse which may be due to vitamin D deficiencies. Toaists have a practice of ‘harvesting the light.’
In the early morning or evening look up towards the sun (not directly) and practice rolling your eyes up and down, back and forth whilst looking up. This is a quick way to help tell your body that you’ve been outside and will help with the natural production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and vitamin D.
Take an epsom salt bath. Epsom salt baths are a great way to relax muscle tension and detox the body through the skin. Trace minerals, like magnesium and potassium can also be absorbed through the skin; deficiencies of which can cause sleeplessness.
Make your room pitch black. Lights from LEDs, other gadgets, street lights, or lights in the morning can all disrupt your sleep pattern and affect your pineal gland making your sleep worse. Make sure you take time to construct your sleeping room to minimize light both internally and externally. If this is hard to do then consider wearing an eye mask.
Wear ear plugs. If you regularly get woken up in the night but noises outside of your control then wearing ear plugs is a must. Although you may not like them at first, most people don’t mind wearing them after a while and you block out any noise that might wake you up.
Take magnesium, zinc, and valerian root supplement supplement 30 minutes before bed time. Taking a sleeping supplement can help with sleep. It’s often mineral deficiencies that can cause sleeplessness.
Try using an app like Headspace to relax your mind. An article from the British Medical Journal states that the short term use of sedative hypnotics can improve sleep quality and lengthen sleep time.
The importance of sleep cannot be understated, and there is evidence to suggest that the lack of sleep may play a role in hair loss or thinning hair with the primary mechanism being the build up of stress.
While more research is required to fully understand the role sleep plays in the growth of hair, the studies suggest that numerous consequences of the lack of sleep may lead to hair that does not grow properly.
There are many ways to address the lack of sleep, including making changes to one’s diet and schedule or consulting a medical professional to determine the causes of poor sleep.
Sleep and stress only play a very small role in hair loss though. I you are experiencing hair loss then I highly recommend reading more of the article here where I’ll show you how I stopped my own hair loss naturally using dietary and lifestyle changes.
About the author
Will Hartfield has a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering is the founder, lead researcher and product developer at Hair Loss Revolution where this article was originally published.