Does sleep deprivation cause acne and breakouts?

February 2, 2021 4 mins read
Does sleep deprivation cause acne and breakouts?

We know that not getting enough quality sleep is bad for your health, but does lack of sleep cause acne breakouts? It could.

Skimping on our sleep can lead to the break down of our collagen production, which not only increases the chances of breakouts but weakens our skin’s elasticity. (Hello, wrinkles!). So, if you’re looking for a culprit for your troubled skin, sleep deprivation could be a leading candidate. Let’s take a look at why.

What is sleep deprivation?

Simply, sleep deprivation is sleep insufficiency. Not getting to bed in time to get the required amount of sleep (7-9 hours) or not sleeping through the night. Sleep is important in supporting our daytime alertness, physical performance, and the regeneration of our health and wellbeing (including our skin).

Sleep deprivation may often be confused with insomnia. And yes, although both sleep deprivation and insomnia share the lack of quantity and quality of sleep, their differentiating factor is the ability to fall asleep. If you are sleep deprived, it’s often due to your lifestyle choices keeping you awake, but when you’re off to sleep, you’re lights out. People with insomnia will not be able to fall asleep at all. However, exhaustion, prevention of skin renewal and the inability for your body to regenerate during sleep are both very present.

Can lack of sleep cause skin problems?

Absolutely. Our sleeping hours are the most effective time for our liver to cleanse our blood and reduce cortisol levels, which boosts our skin full of oxygen. This cellular regeneration helps us wake up with a glowing, clear complexion. Without a good sleep each night, you may start to see these signs showing up in the mirror:

Dark circles

These are the most common signs of a poor night’s sleep. Our stress hormone (cortisol) essentially saps the life out of our skin, causing us to wake up looking a little worse for wear.


Again, cortisol, our skins nemesis, is the culprit here. This can cause the blood vessels in our skin to swell, triggering our body’s flight or fight response which elevates our skin’s oil production.

Fine lines and wrinkles

Sleep boosts our collagen production, so taking that away can lead to a duller complexion and lack of skin elasticity. Plus, our growth hormones peak during sleep, which plays a role in cell repair and everlasting youth.

Angry skin

Our immune system battles to operate without adequate sleep. When your immunity is low, you may find your skin to be blotchy, red or break out in a rash.

Puffy skin

Sleep is the “repair and renew” spa treatment for our skin. If we interrupt this with sleep deprivation, the repair process is slowed, making any toxins or fluids unable to drain properly, leaving us with puffy eyes and skin.

Other causes of acne

Acne is caused when your hair follicles become over-saturated with oil and dead skin cells. Although most common in teens, it can affect people of all ages. Getting the right amount of sleep is the quickest way to help our skin cells perform at their best, but there could be external factors causing this break out:

  • Hormones. Changes in our androgens (hormones produced during puberty) increase in teen boys and girls causing their sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum (our body’s natural oil). These hormonal changes can also occur in women during pregnancy and menopause.
  • Medications. Any prescribed medication that includes corticosteroids, testosterone or lithium can aggravate the onset of acne.
  • Diet. Certain foods like carbohydrate-rich bread and baked goods can worsen acne.
  • Stress. This may not cause acne but can contribute to making it worse.

Other effects of sleep deprivation

You may think that our skin’s health is reason enough to get our beauty sleep, but sleep deprivation can also cause other effects, which can lead to long-term side effects if not nipped in the bud.

  • Drowsiness
  • Short-term memory issues
  • Judgement
  • Irritability
  • Motivation loss
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety and depression

As your unofficial beauty sleep experts, we’re here to tell you that your beauty routine starts in your sleep..