Does sleep deprivation cause acne?


Does sleep affect acne?

Yes it does. Big time.

But you cannot say sleep causes acne. Sleep, specifically sleep deprivation, affects acne indirectly. Sleep affects most, if not all, the causes that lead to acne.

Lets see how this happens and how you can harness the power of sleep to cure acne. Wouldn’t that be nice? Just put your head into the pillow and dream your pimples away? As you are about to see sleep is an important part to getting clear.

Importance of sleep

Sleep, just like food and air, is something your body needs. It’s not an option. Extreme sleep deprivation can lead to death, just as sure as starvation does.

Consider sleep as maintenance time. It affects both the mind and the body. And when you don’t get enough sleep both suffer and eventually breakdown. Just like a car breaks down if you don’t take good care of it.

Lack of sleep, also called sleep deprivation can lead to acne and other health issues, some extremely serious.

Before we get to that let’s define sleep deprivation as not getting enough sleep. You’ve been there. You can’t get out of bed and feel tired and low energy the whole day. Although sleeping too much can also cause this, as I explain in my Wake Up To Clear Skin report.

There is no magical number of hours you need to sleep. Sleep deprivation has more to do with the quality of your sleep than the number of hours you sleep. That explains why some people can sleep 5 hours a night and feel rested and energized. While other person can sleep 10 hours and still wake up tired and feel groggy the whole day.

Health effects of sleep deprivation

Not getting enough sleep is serious. It has shown to

  • Increase inflammation (the main cause behind acne)
  • Increase insulin resistance (another bad boy behind acne)
  • Make you fat
  • Increase stress (read how stress affects acne)
  • Lead to depression and negative attitude

Quite a list – eh? All for skimping little sleep. Something we all do in modern society.

Sleep and inflammation

Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports

A lack of sleep increases inflammatory cytokines. This helps explain why pain flare-up occurs in response to sleep deprivation in various disorders. Even modest sleep restriction adversely affects inflammatory cytokine levels. In a carefully controlled study, sleep deprivation caused a 40-60% average increase in the inflammatory marker IL-6 in men and women, while men alone showed a 20-30% increase in TNF-a. Both IL-6 and TNF-a are potent pro-inflammatory cytokines that induce systemic inflammation.Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2002 Mar;31(1): pp.15-36

40 to 60% increase in inflammatory markers. And just so you know, both IL-6 and TNF-a are among the most dangerous pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Alarmingly these effects showed up after modest sleep deprivation; 2 hours a night for one week.

Here’s the link to the study:

Adverse Effects of Modest Sleep Restriction on Sleepiness, Performance, and Inflammatory Cytokines

Sleep and insulin resistance

A 1996 study by the University of Chicago Medical Center showed that sleep deprivation severely increases insulin resistance (the body’s ability to use glucose). This not only can lead to acne but diabetes also. Again the sleep deprivation was not severe. The study subjects slept 6 hours or less a night. Interestingly the study also showed that sleeping too much (9 hours or more) had similar effect.

Here’s the study:

Association of sleep time with diabetes mellitus and impaired glucose tolerance.

Obesity and lack of sleep

I bet you didn’t guess this. Too little sleep can make you fat.

Sleep affects hormones that control glucose metabolism and appetite.

When lack of sleep becomes a chronic problem, levels of Grehlin increases, causing greater appetite, and levels of Leptin decrease. Regardless of diet and exercise, it’s possible that some obesity is caused, or made worse, by sleep deprivation.

Stuffing yourself doesn’t only make you fat, but it’s also bad for your acne.

Not to mention that inflammation and insulin resistance can also lead to obesity and acne.

Lack of sleep can stress you

Sleep deprivation was found to enhance activity on the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (which controls reactions to stress and regulates body functions such as digestion, the immune system, mood, sex, or energy usage) while suppressing growth hormones.

The Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenalin axis (is that a monster of a word or what) is “main man” behind stress. When you are in a stressful situation it increases stress hormones and triggers the fight or flight response. Lack of sleep leads to similar hormonal response.

Physiologic studies suggest that a sleep deficit may put the body into a state of high alert, increasing the production of stress hormones and driving up blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.
Scientists Finding Out What Losing Sleep Does to a Body

By Rob Stein

Cutting sleep can make you depressed

Like those conditions wouldn’t be bad enough sleep deprivation can also plunge you into depression.

Instead of confusing you with medical jargon I’ll just give you the common sense explanation.

Remember the last time you didn’t sleep well and had to go to work or college. I bet you couldn’t concentrate. You were irritable and couldn’t get anything done. As far as work/college goes the day was pretty much wasted.

If you have a demanding life (like we all do) you fall behind. Combine that with no energy or ability to get anything done and you’ll see how easy it is to start worrying. Worrying makes sleeping even more difficult so you find yourself spiraling down to depression.

Lack of sleep and acne

OK, so lack of sleep can make me fat and depressed. So what, but how does this relate to acne.

Sorry for dragging you through all that, but I do have a point here.

In the what causes acne page I explained how inflammation and insulin resistance causes acne. Put one and one together and you’ll see how sleep deprivation can aggravate acne.

Sleep can affect acne in other ways also. Let’s look at mental attitude. Being positive leads to healthy and happy body chemistry (hormones and all that stuff), which helps you to fight acne. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. Being depressed and pessimistic leads to not so healthy body chemistry. And as you just learned sleep deprivation can bum you out.

Still, despite sleep having a big impact on acne, you can’t say sleep deprivation causes acne.

Health, and by extension acne, is a holistic system (each part is connected and affects one another) and it’s impossible to single out a single element (such as diet or sleep) and say this is the cause. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

Sleep affects every element of health (getting enough sleep positively and sleep deprivation negatively). When you don’t get enough sleep your diet heads south, you have less energy to exercise, you become depressed and pessimistic.

All of these can make your acne worse.

So in summary, yes lack of sleep can and will make your acne worse. And if you are sleep deprived I can be certain that you will not get clear. If you don’t get your sleep you can eat the perfect diet and live the healthiest life and still not get clear. Sleep is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

So make sure you get your sleep, but not too much. Sleeping too much has its own downsides. To be healthy and cure acne you need the right amount of sleep.

But how do you know that you are getting just the right amount of sleep?

Let me ask you few questions.

  • Do you feel like you could use more energy?
  • Do you often wake up feeling drowsy and tired?
  • Do you have problems falling asleep?
  • Do you have problems staying awake without caffeine or other stimulants?

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions chances are your sleep could use a little help. And as you just learned this sabotages your efforts to cure acne.

Most people don’t get full benefits of your sleep because they sleep poor quality sleep. So rather than sleeping more you need to increase the quality of your sleep.

When you learn to maximize the different phases of sleep and balance your inner sleep CLOCK you can kiss good-bye to your sleep problems. You get the full benefits of sleep and wake up refreshed and full of energy. And at the same time kick acne where it counts.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…

Acne is directly proportional to sleep I am 17 years old male. My skin type is excessively oily. My diet is non-vegetarian. I have a severe acne problem.

For years, I’ve been taking medication,…

Diary of a Sleep-Deprived Ex-Acne Sufferer I realized with bad (quality, not quantity) sleep, my skin tends to have those tiny whitehead bumps that keep popping up around my forehead/cheeks the …

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Comments on Does sleep deprivation cause acne? Leave a Comment

Jennifer @ 3:37 am #

In the past, my face was so smooth and clear because i slept enough. Woke up with full of energy.

And recently this year, I’ve concentrated more in computer games and movie till midnight. As a result, I only sleep for 5 hours a night and i started to realise my face is getting worst. Full of stubborn acne. Somemore my appetite is getting so much better and my weight gain 8kg in just a year time.

I even consult a doctor about my acne problem but it doesn’t help much.

But now, i’ve learn something on this page that Lack of sleep really affect acne. So if you love your skin and health, please sleep more. Or you will regret i assure you..

Thanks for letting me shared my experience with you all.. =)

Samantha @ 3:37 am #

Lack of sleep makes my acne worse.

I have noticed that as my life has become more stressful and busy, my routines are messed up including my sleep. I get on average 5 hours sleep, my days are so busy I hardly find time to relax at night my brain’s going too. As this keeps happening my acne has really worsened. I notice also near the time of my period i find it hard to sleep, which has worsened my already bad acne.

Sara @ 3:43 am #

stress, school and lack of sleep

I’m a 22 year old female. I’m currently in summer school taking three courses in eight weeks. It’s been really intense and stressful. I probably get four to five hours of sleep a night sometimes less when I have an exam the next day.

Anyways, I’ve always had a clear face. Even in my teen years I never suffered from acne. However, this summer I started to get a lot of pimples on my face. I never thought that my lack of sleep would have anything to do with it. After reading this article though I can see how lack of sleep could affect acne.

So thanks so much for this article. This week is finals week and then I’m done. Hopefully, my faces clears up afterwards.

Anonymous @ 3:43 am #

More sleep, Less acne:)

During school, I never got much sleep from homework and waking up early! now that it is summer and i can sleep more then i could during the school year my skin has cleared up dramatically! ALL because of two or three more hours of sleep! This web site has helped a lot and now from it i have clearer skin than ever:) thank you.

Ryan @ 3:46 am #

I’ve noticed that when I don’t get the right amount of sleep i need at night and stay up till 4 in the morning, when i wake up I notice that my acne has gotten worse..As when i go to bed early and get about 8 hours of sleep when i wake up my acne is still there, but not as bad..! And by reading this it’s helped me out a little bit by showing me to try and get more sleep at night then i do now and maybe it will lead to clearer skin in the long run..!!

samantha @ 3:47 am #

Stress in you Dreams

One night I dreamed that I missed the bus and it caused me major stress (in my dream.) I woke up that morning and had an outbreak of acne on my forehead.


That sounds interesting. It’s possible your body reacts to the stress in your dreams as it reacts to it in ‘real’ life. After all dreams often feel real.

On the other hand your breakout is not necessarily because of that. Acne is a very complicated condition and it’s not always what it looks like on the surface.

Anonymous @ 3:48 am #

Never realized sleep had such an effect on my acne

I deff. don’t get enough sleep. I never really noticed it but after answering those questions i realized that you are right. I am a student and between studying and homework and such it’s hard to get everything done in time to get enough sleep and on top of it i never fall asleep right away…I lie there sometimes for hours. Therefore, sleep is a hard thing for me to be dead-on with, with stress, being busy, and never falling asleep on time. Thank you, that was a big eye opener.


Do you exercise? It helps you to sleep better, deeper and fall asleep faster. Just make sure you don’t exercise within few hours of your bedtime.

Exposure to bright light also helps you to sleep better. Sunlight is of course the best.

Stasi @ 3:50 am #

If I sleep longer, the inflammation goes down incredibly!!

It really is true that the more rested I am, the more calm and relaxed my face looks.

Some nights when I only sleep for three or four hours, I wake up and my face is greasy and my acne cysts are even bigger.

On the other hand, when I sleep, I have a better mental attitude towards my skin…plus my pimples seem to be half the size they were the day before.

When you sleep, your body is being given time to rejuvinate and heal itself. And it really does!!

jill @ 2:22 am #

how do you recommend gettig the “quality” sleep you are speaking of? Im 33, have 4 children ranging in age fron 18mos to 12 years old.. i wake up frequently during the night and am pretty high stress. My acne is moderate, i usually have 1-4 pimples (both pistule and cystic) at all times, completely and only around my mouth and chin. I desperatley want to be rid of this. My skin is damaged from scarring and years of use of all the harsh products ive tried and used faithfully. any recommendations for me?

Mike @ 1:56 am #

I don’t think this is true. During my school year I managed to get around 5 hours of sleep on average. (even on the the weekends due to my job.) My acne never changed. However, I did notice the more I’d wash my pillow cover the less acne I would get over night.

knone @ 9:15 pm #

i believe you when you say sleep can affect acne in many ways, but i also think that stress is the ‘main’ reason of why acne is becoming more visible. there was one site i found and read, that says acne is caused by stress, rather than sleep disorder. why is that?

Amy @ 11:02 pm #

I’ve never been able to sleep well, and I don’t know why. id lie there for hours, wanting to get to sleep but not being able to, so id just read instead. Now i just stay up on my laptop til 4-ish in the morning, sometimes just skipping sleep altogether! My spots have been getting worse, and im getting larger, and more stressed, so im really worried. what should I do now? I cant sleep easily, but I dont want to try drugs to help, im 12 years old!

stephanie @ 7:31 am #

Hi, I’m 24 years old and have battled acne since i was 12 years old. About a year ago i realized that if i did not have a good nights sleep the next day my skin was more oily had a dull look i broke out and it actually hurt, on the other hand a good nights rest was like it’s own healing power.

My acne actually improved and healed if i got enough rest and i had a more glowing look to my skin!

It’s not like sleep is the cure all but for me it’s a combination of good sleep, a good diet, less alcohol, cleansing, moisturizing, and just being healthy.

jejuan ellison @ 7:42 am #

you better get to sleep or your highly regret it

I remember I used to stay up late in the beginning of the summer until my family went to Natchez Mississippi. Since my ps3 and my special book were not with me on the trip I had nothing to do. So why would I stay up so I went to sleep when everyone else did we spent 7 days and 6 nights in Natchez and when we got back I wondered why my face cleared in Mississippi and I had all this acne in my face at home.

I thought it was the air at first I mean come on its obvious that country air is way cleaner than city air besides I heard that chicago had the dirtiest air in the nation since we have all these factories here,but then one day I found this website and figured out how sleep affects acne. And then I thought back to when I were in Mississippi and when I got back home and compared my sleeping patterns then I thought so that’s why I have so much acne.

So I slept the same time I went to sleep in Mississippi (at 8:00pm)after that my face was starting to clear up after about 1 week and I was so happy the other kids at school did’nt make fun of me any more I felt like a 1500 pound weight had been lifted from my shoulders. it slowly cleared up now I only have 2 pimples.

Sarah @ 7:43 am #

I noticed that whenever I eat chocolate or Ice cream daily or too much, I break out really badly. And I know that some people say chocolate doesn’t cause acne, but that’s obviously not true for me.

Also, I noticed that when I sleep very late and wake up late, I get more pimples and acne. I know there was a period of time where I slept around 10 almost everyday and woke up around 7/8, and my skin was much clearer than before. There were still some pimples, but there wasn’t as much as I usually get.

Also, one last thing, touching your face so much causing acne, because the bacteria on your hands transfers to your face, and bacteria is one of things that can cause acne. That’s why it’s said to watch your face 2-3 times a day.

Anyway, to end this, I definitely agree that sugar and lack of sleep are a big part in causing acne.

Taylor @ 7:45 am #

My Acne Experience

Name – Taylor

Age- 20

Skin Type – Oily and Sensitive

I have this habit of staying up late. I end up getting maybe 4 hrs. of sleep and spend the rest of the morning in bed.

I’ve found when I go days without at least 8 hrs. of sleep, and then go to bed and get 8 hrs., My face looks fuller and feels smoother, even clearer – even when I’m still using my cleanser, I see quicker real results after 8 hrs. of sleep – It like Magic !!!

- Taylor


Thanks for sharing your experience. From my own experience and from the feedback I get from my readers and customers I have to conclude that sleep is very important for clear skin. If you don’t get enough sleep it’s hard to get clear.

John @ 7:46 am #

Don’t neglect sleep

For the past month or so I have been following a truly healthy lifestyle, eating many fruits and vegetables, exercising, yoga the whole Sha bang.

I was expecting for see some positive results but in fact my acne got even worse. Everyday I woke up looking in the mirror even more disappointed. I kept thinking, what was I doing wrong? I knew in the back of my mind there was one component in my health that I was definitely neglecting.

Sleep. Staying up late studying for exams and doing endless homework led me to believe that I would some how catch up my deprivation the next night, but that was not the case.

I just keep putting it off hoping that that night would not make a significant difference. On the weekends I would wake up well rested and see the deeply rooted pustules on my forehead look better and better.

After reading this article I have decided to stop this endless cycle of self- inflicted abuse. I’ve got to make my health the biggest and most important priority. Lets see how it goes.

Sembuddy @ 7:48 am #

my acne and sleep deprivation experience…

for me, sleep deprivation and stress as my observation is the reasons for my acne. it’s true that sleep deprivation can increase stress, inflammation, over fatigue, lack of concentration, and lead to depression and negative attitude. But recently noticed that my acne got better when i sleep well, not so stressed. my work gets me stressed. so now my acne reduce when i observed i get feel unstressed and better. thats all.


Yes, sleep is more important than most people realize. It affects everything in our bodies. With regard to acne, sleep deprivation can increase both inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which are linked with acne.

It’s not enough that you simply sleep the required number of hours. You have to ensure that the quality of your sleep is also good.

If you wake up feeling tired then most likely the quality of your sleep could use a bit of help.

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