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Beauty Sleep: The Connection Between Teenage Acne and Sleep

Updated: May 12, 2023

Did you know getting enough sleep can help clear up your teenage acne? Discover the surprising link between sleep and clear skin in this must-read article.

teenage acne and sleep

Acne is a common skin problem affecting millions of people worldwide, but it can be particularly distressing for teenagers. Adolescence is a time when many young people struggle with acne, which can affect self-esteem and confidence. While many factors contribute to the development of acne, sleep is one that is often overlooked. This article will explore the connection between teenage acne and sleep quality and provide tips on improving sleep habits to support clear and healthy skin.

Why is sleep essential for acne-prone skin?

Sleep performs several protective and restorative functions for the skin. Studies have suggested that acute sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality may impair the integrity of the skin barrier and appearance. This makes sense to us as we’re all familiar with not looking our best after a late night or poor night’s sleep.

teenage acne and sleep

The connection between acne and sleep has also been the subject of research. Dermatologists carried out a study in Cleveland, OH, and the results supported the hypothesis that there is a potential relationship between sleep quality and acne. Study participants reported worsening acne with poorer quality sleep [1]. While more research is needed to fully understand this relationship between acne and sleep, factors such as hormones, the immune system, inflammation, and stress are involved.

How does sleep affect teenage acne?

Here are five ways that poor sleep habits can contribute to acne in teenagers:

Increased inflammation: Poor sleep can significantly impact inflammation and skin diseases. When you don't get enough sleep or experience poor sleep quality, your body's immune system may become dysregulated, leading to chronic inflammation. Scientists are now focusing on inflammation as one of the primary drivers of acne.

New research shows that inflammation can cause the sebum in hair follicles to oxidise, and the oxygen content of the sebum is lower. Bacteria can thrive in this low-oxygen environment and starts to multiply, leading to red and inflamed pimples on the skin’s surface [2]. This then triggers a secondary inflammatory response at the localised area and site of the spot. Inflammation can worsen acne and cause redness, swelling, and irritation around acne lesions, making them more noticeable and harder to heal.

While several factors trigger inflammation, getting a good night’s sleep is essential in reducing this inflammatory load on the body.

Imbalanced hormones: Sleep is essential for regulating hormonal balance in teenagers. Lack of sleep can disrupt the body's hormonal balance, specifically the hormone cortisol, released in response to stress. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation keeps cortisol levels high. When cortisol levels are high, it can increase oil production in the skin, leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts. Higher cortisol levels can also stimulate insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 has been linked to acne, as it can stimulate the production of sebum and contribute to the development of acne.

Impaired immune function: Sleep plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. It allows the body to repair and regenerate tissues and produce critical immune system components, such as antibodies and cytokines. During deep sleep, the body also releases growth hormones vital for tissue repair and regeneration. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can decrease the production of certain immune cells, such as T cells and natural killer cells, which are essential for fighting off infections and diseases. When the immune system is compromised, it can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, which can worsen acne. A lack of sleep can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infections, including those that can contribute to the development of acne.

teenage sleep and acne

A good night’s sleep can actually help to reduce inflammation. During sleep, the body produces cytokines that help reduce inflammation and support the healing process.

Increased stress: Poor sleep patterns can significantly affect the stress levels of teenagers. When a teenager doesn't get enough sleep, it can lead to feelings of fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, all of which can contribute to increased stress levels. A lack of sleep can also lead to increased stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. As we have seen, cortisol can increase inflammation and stimulate sebum production, the oily substance that can clog pores and lead to acne.

In addition, stress can affect the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections and inflammation that can contribute to acne. Furthermore, stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or consuming high-sugar and high-fat foods, which may also affect the skin.

Stress can also lead to racing thoughts, anxiety, and worry, which can keep teenagers awake at night. This can lead to a cycle of stress and poor sleep, as stress can lead to poor sleep, and poor sleep can further exacerbate stress.

Overall, stress can contribute to developing and exacerbating teenage acne through its effects on hormones, inflammation, the immune system, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and sleep patterns. Therefore, managing stress levels through healthy lifestyle habits and a good sleep routine can be essential in helping teenage acne.

Poor skin regeneration: Sleep is essential for repairing and healing teenage acne. During sleep, the body produces growth hormone, which stimulates collagen production, a protein necessary for repairing and regenerating damaged skin tissue. Moreover, sleep is also vital for reducing inflammation, as we have seen. Sleep also allows the skin to retain moisture, which is essential for maintaining healthy and hydrated skin. Therefore, developing healthy sleep habits is critical to managing teenage acne by supporting the repair and regeneration of damaged skin tissue and reducing inflammation.

Why may teenagers struggle with sleep?

There are several reasons why teenagers may struggle to get a good night's sleep:

Biological Changes: During adolescence, the body's internal clock shifts, causing many teenagers to feel more alert at night and drowsy in the morning. This can make it difficult for them to fall asleep early enough to get the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

School Demands: Teenagers often have demanding school schedules that require them to wake up early and stay up late studying or completing assignments. This can disrupt their sleep schedule and make it difficult to get enough sleep.

teenage acne and skin

Technology Use: Many teenagers use electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, late into the night. The blue light emitted by these devices can disrupt the body's production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

Social Life: Teenagers may stay up late to socialise with friends or participate in extracurricular activities. This can make getting enough sleep difficult, especially if they have early morning obligations such as school or work.

Stress: Adolescence can be a stressful time, and stress can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. In addition, lack of sleep can increase stress levels, creating a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.

How can teenagers promote healthy sleep habits?

Establishing a good sleep routine can be helpful for teenagers to get the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Here are some tips for creating a healthy sleep routine:

Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Develop a calming ritual before bed, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to mellow music.

Avoid electronics before bed: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with sleep. Try to avoid using electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, or computers for at least an hour before bed.

Ensure the bedroom is conducive to sleep: Keep the bedroom cool, quiet, and dark. Consider using blackout curtains or earplugs to help create a relaxing environment.

Avoid caffeine and heavy meals before bed: Consuming caffeine or heavy meals can interfere with sleep. Try to avoid these for several hours before bedtime. Avoid snacking on sugary foods before bedtime, which can keep you awake. You can read more about diet and skin in our blog here.

teenage acne and sleep

Get regular exercise: Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality. However, avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as this can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Limit naps: While short naps can be beneficial, avoid napping for more than 30 minutes or late in the day, as this can interfere with nighttime sleep.

By following these tips, teenagers can create a healthy sleep routine that can improve sleep quality and help them feel more rested and alert during the day.

In Summary

Sleep is crucial for the overall health of teenagers, particularly those with acne. Adequate sleep is essential for repairing and regenerating damaged skin tissue, producing collagen, and reducing inflammation, all of which are important for managing and preventing acne.

Poor sleep patterns can cause more stress and reduce the body's ability to fight infections. Furthermore, poor sleep can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or consuming high-sugar and high-fat foods, contributing to acne development.

Therefore, developing healthy sleep habits can be essential to managing and preventing teenage acne. Encouraging regular and consistent sleep patterns, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine or sugary food and drinks before bedtime, and promoting healthy coping mechanisms can all contribute to better sleep and improved skin health in teenagers.

To get more support for your skin health, contact us at the Powers Nutrition Clinic for 1.2.1 sessions.



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