How Sleep Is Affecting Your Hair

Restful sleep, luscious locks.
How Sleep Is Affecting Your Hair
Tom Greenspan
December 21, 2022

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Sleep plays a role in brain function and the production of adult stem cells, but did you know there’s a significant relationship between sleep and hair growth?

While healthy sleep patterns help increase hair growth, sleep deprivation due to physical and emotional stress can lead to hair loss. Moreover, lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can affect a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infections and illnesses that can ultimately lead to hair loss. Sleep deprivation can also limit the production of the human body’s natural hormones and cause weight gain, mood disorders, and weak hair follicles.

So, to help you understand how sleep affects the hair growth cycle, here’s a detailed look into the relationship between the two and ways to improve hair health.

How Does Sleep Affect Hair Loss?

If you’re suffering from thinning hair or acute hair loss, it’s best to keep an eye on how much sleep you’re getting each day. Poor sleep, be it temporary or chronic, like sleep apnea, can affect healthy hair, while your sleep cycle can govern the hair follicles. 

A proper sleep schedule helps your body’s regenerative process, including repairing and regenerating hair follicles. Good sleep quality also helps in the production of growth hormones and enzymes that synthesize protein required for follicular health. This way, you can reduce genetic hair loss and hair thinning by getting enough sleep.

Sleep, Stress, And Hair Loss

There is a complicated link between sleep, stress, and hair loss, where each factor can affect the other, leading to a vicious circle of anxiety. But if you improve sleep or establish emotional well-being, you can break out of this cycle in no time.

Hair loss, especially androgenetic alopecia, worsens under stressful conditions. Scientists claim this is due to the “brain-hair follicle axis,” which establishes a connection between the brain and hair follicular growth. That’s why stressful situations severely affect healthy hair and lead to premature hair death.

As a psychological stress response, the brain triggers the mast cells in the skin to create a disorder. This usually takes the form of scalps issues like psoriasis that ultimately affect the hair growth phase and promote hair loss. However, you can largely avoid these issues if you learn to manage stress.

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to cope with stress is through sleep. This relationship can be explained in terms of the hormones the human body produces. 

Our bodies tell the brain of a stressful situation using a chain reaction that increases the production of a hormone called ACTH. This, in turn, helps in the production of adrenaline. When the body experiences a lack of sleep, the ACTH hormone triggers the adrenal gland to produce adrenaline, making one feel stressed and irritable.

However, a good night’s sleep blocks off this reaction - the pituitary gland slows down the production of ACTH during sleep so that the body can recover from the adrenaline. Sleep disturbances, on the other hand, remove this chance for your body to recover.

Stress Prevents Restful Sleep

There’s another dimension to the sleep-stress-hair loss relationship. While sleep deprivation can induce stress by increasing the production of adrenaline and cortisol, stress can also make it difficult to fall asleep. However, if you can disrupt this cycle, you can create improvement in both stress levels and sleep cycles.

Healthy sleep patterns require consistency and diligence, but if you can achieve a fine balance between stress and sleep, you’ll likely diffuse hair loss before it gets severe. Many scientists have closely studied the potential risks of sleep-related issues and stress on hair loss, and that’s why they’ve attributed it as a risk factor, especially for androgenetic alopecia. 

Human Growth Hormone And Hair Loss

Most often, genetic hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, can’t be prevented by enhancing sleep quality, but regulating certain hormone levels can definitely do the trick. 

The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is a common hormone that affects bodily growth, including that of hair follicles and skin cells. It is usually produced in normal amounts as humans progress through their sleep cycles. But slight changes in sleep patterns can affect its production. For example, a person who experiences sleep deprivation has lower levels of HGH, which lead to various issues such as hair thinning and loss.

Moreover, poor sleep causes physical and psychological stress, which increases the chances of telogen effluvium, where a person can lose a significant amount of hair. You can reduce the likelihood of this disease by maintaining a balanced sleep cycle and improving your sleep quality. 

Besides hormones, did you know that both sleep and hair growth works in cycles and rhythms? Well, hair grows in cycles, so sleep deprivation and any disruption in your natural circadian rhythm will directly affect hair growth. Let’s take a deeper look at this connection.

Natural Circadian Rhythm And Hair Growth

The follicular hair cycle has three basic stages: anagen, telogen, and follicular replacement, and this entire cycle is partially controlled by our circadian rhythm. As you’ve probably heard before, the circadian rhythm acts as our body’s “internal clock,” which dictates the exact times you feel tired, awake, or go to sleep. Besides, it also controls several other bodily processes and thus affects our overall well-being.

Any disturbance in the circadian sleep cycle can have ripple effects on the growth and regeneration cycle of hair follicles. Although scientists haven’t proven its direct connection to androgenetic alopecia, a disrupted circadian rhythm can highly exacerbate hair loss. 

Furthermore, an important factor in this connection is the hormone called melatonin. Produced in the pineal gland, melatonin is a hormone responsible for various body functions, including the sleep-wake cycle. Some studies show that melatonin has a great impact on the circadian cycles of hair follicles, especially in women. That’s why many hair experts recommend melatonin supplements as topical treatments or hair health boosters to combat hair loss issues like alopecia. 

Since melatonin is an antioxidant that reduces the oxidative stress on the follicles responsible for hair loss, melatonin supplements are highly regarded by dermatologists. However, even though melatonin has been quite effective in reversing signs of alopecia, it still requires deeper research to be prescribed as a cure.

How To Improve Your Sleep Quality

1. Integrating A Good Sleep Hygiene

Most people have particular activities they do before going to bed, and these routines can positively or negatively affect their sleep quality. Moreover, the regular habits surrounding sleep - the time one goes to bed, where one keeps all their devices, where one sleeps - is called “sleep hygiene.” 

Here’s how you can improve your sleep hygiene and reap hair growth benefits from quality sleep:

A. Have A Fixed Bedtime

Carefully choose a particular bedtime that allows room for other important aspects of your life, including work and relaxing time. Once you find a bedtime that suits you, stick to it as much as possible, even on weekends. This practice will develop a consistent sleep-wake circadian rhythm for your body and minimize the chances of sleep debt.

B. Daily Exercise

If you have trouble falling asleep, consider doing light aerobic exercise or weight training regularly. This helps your body improve its mobility while exhausting your energy reserves by the end of the day, leading to a restful, deep sleep. And while you’re exercising, try getting some sunlight in the morning or afternoon. Vitamin D helps in melatonin production, which controls your sleep-wake cycle.

C. Take Fewer Naps

Morning or mid-day naps are highly beneficial in improving your brain function, but taking a nap longer than 30 minutes can detract from your sleep at night. Taking long naps can also leave you feeling groggy and can often lead to chronic sleep problems.

D. Stay Away From Electronic Screens

You must have heard how detrimental “blue light” is to sleep, but did you know it can affect the production of melatonin? Usually emitted from electronic screens and energy-efficient bulbs, this blue light has a similar wavelength compared to natural light, which can mess with your circadian rhythm. Since blue light can trick your body into thinking it's morning, you should stay away from anything that emits blue light.

E. Create An Ideal Environment For Sleeping

The darker your bedroom is, the faster you'll be able to fall asleep. A dark room will tell your brain that it's time to sleep, and the melatonin will kick in. Ensure there’s no light pollution from windows, hallways, night lights, charging lights, etc. If there’s still light leaking into the room, try using blackout curtains, and if there’s any noise pollution, use white noise earplugs to block it out.

F. Set A Comfortable Room Temperature

Cool room temperature helps most people to fall asleep, so if your room is warm, turn on the air conditioner and/or fan to cool it down. However, if you don’t have an AC unit, consider switching up your mattress with one with cooling abilities. You can also shower before going to bed to decrease your body temperature, especially during summer.

2. Try Meditation And Mindfulness Techniques

Since stress and sleep have such an effect on hair growth and loss, it’s incredibly useful to learn relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness. This has been proven to improve insomnia and reduce stress, depression, and exhaustion. Originating as a philosophy in Buddhist religious practices, mindfulness involves sitting calmly and bringing attention to the present moment to accept your current self in its full potential. 

Yoga has the perfect blend of mindfulness and body movement that can help boost your mobility and mental clarity. Many people (more than 55% of participants) have confirmed that yoga has improved their sleep quality and helped combat stressful situations. 

Moreover, there are various ways to learn relaxation techniques, and you can easily find a yoga or meditation program in your area. If you want to learn in your own time, consider meditation apps or YouTube tutorials for yoga to get started.

Regardless of your preferred method, you should have a certain level of commitment and discipline to reduce stress levels and sleep better. Start with something small and achievable and gradually upgrade to more complex programs. 

Hair Loss Treatments

While improving your sleep quality can impact your hair health, highly genetic issues such as alopecia or pattern baldness require treatment. Here are some of the common treatments for hair loss:

1. Medications

If your hair loss is related to any fungal infection or other chronic illness, doctors usually prescribe over-the-counter medications to combat it. However, only two medical compounds have been approved as a treatment for male-pattern baldness - minoxidil and finasteride. 

As mentioned, these medications do not work for female pattern baldness or hair loss. In this case, doctors usually prescribe hormonal birth control or “androgen receptor antagonists.”

2. Surgery

The best way to combat androgenetic alopecia is through surgical treatments such as hair transplant, flap surgery, or scalp reduction. These treatment options are constantly improving, and today, they are completely safe and effective. However, not everyone is suited to a surgical procedure for hair loss. If you don’t have healthy donor hair or good physical condition, you’ll be more susceptible to infection, bleeding, patchy hair regrowth, etc.

Final Thoughts

Sleep and hair are interconnected - while hair loss can be a side-effect of lack of sleep, sleep deprivation or insomnia can be caused by stress from hair loss. But you can break this harmful cycle by lowering your stress levels, sleeping better, and making some healthy lifestyle changes. 

In this article, we’ve covered the complex relationship between sleep, stress, and hair using scientific research studies and evidence to help you gain a better understanding. However, if you think your hair loss is severe and cannot be treated through normal lifestyle changes, we recommend consulting a doctor and seeking immediate medical treatment.

Stick around for more sleep-related informational articles. Until then, goodbye!