The Independent Pharmacy

Can A Lack Of Sleep Cause Hair Loss

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 6 Oct 2023

If you're finding more hair on your pillow, it's completely natural to wonder if sleepless nights might be contributing. Many people share this concern, and we're here to explore the answers together.

Yes, a lack of sleep can contribute to hair loss. Not getting enough sleep can mess with your body's hormones and your ability to handle stress, both of which are important for keeping your hair growing as it should.

By the end of this guide, you’ll understand the impact your quality of sleep has on your hair health, backed by scientific insights and practical advice.

Let’s explore the connection between inadequate rest and hair thinning so you can understand what’s going on and what can be done about it.

The Clear Link: Sleep Quality and Hair Loss

Quality sleep is as vital for healthy hair as it is for overall health. When we don't sleep enough, it can throw off the levels of certain hormones that help our hair grow, such as oestrogen and melatonin. People experiencing regular poor sleep tend to notice more hair shedding and thinning. Their hair also appears duller, loses volume, and may lack the vibrancy of someone sleeping soundly.

For example, shift workers with highly irregular sleep schedules may observe their hair condition worsening. When our natural sleep-wake cycle is constantly interrupted, it can stress out the system in our body that makes hormones. New parents struggling with sleep disruptions from a baby’s nighttime crying often see increased hair loss postpartum as restless nights collide with shifting hormone levels.

Sometimes, it's the little things we wouldn't expect, like a nightcap before bed, that can subtly affect our sleep and, over time, the health of our hair. Making small adjustments can be surprisingly powerful.

Paying attention to lifestyle habits that negatively impact sleep is a key step in maintaining vibrant, thick hair.

Sleep Loss and Hair Thinning: What’s Going On?

In simple terms, not getting sufficient quality sleep can lead to hormonal imbalances that cause hair to thin out or fall out more than usual.

To understand why, think of sleep as the time when the body recharges its complex systems. When we don’t get adequate rest, it’s like our batteries run low. Hormones and other key systems no longer function at optimal levels.

Just like a seesaw going off-balance, not sleeping well can upset the delicate balance of important hormones like estrogen, melatonin, and cortisol. These hormones play important roles in regulating the hair growth cycle.

Oestrogen promotes the hair follicle growth (anagen) phase. During the growth phase, active cell division pushes out the new hair shaft. Oestrogen helps determine the duration of this active phase.

Melatonin helps time our biological rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. Disrupted melatonin signalling can desynchronise the hair cycle.

Cortisol is released due to stress. If you're stressed for a long time, it can cause higher levels of cortisol, which may make your hair stop growing sooner than it should and start falling out.

When these hormone levels are thrown off balance due to inadequate sleep, follicles stay dormant in telogen (shedding phase) rather than activating a new anagen phase. Over time, this delayed new growth combined with premature shedding can lead to meaningful hair thinning.

Spotting the Signs: Is Your Hair Suffering from Your Sleep Habits?

If you’re tossing and turning nightly and concerned about increased hair shedding or loss, watch for these common signs:

  • Noticeably more hair than usual left in your brush or shower drain.
  • Hair that feels thinner, finer, lacks shine and appears dull without its usual bounce and body. It may feel rough or easily tangled.
  • Increased loss when you gently run your hands from root to tip or give a soft tug.
  • Gradual thinning of overall density across the scalp, a widening part line or more scalp becoming visible. Areas may feel less full.
  • Lack of new fine, baby hairs along the hairline or temples - if you don’t see these short new growths, your follicles may not be cycling properly.

If this sounds familiar, your tresses may be affected by the poor sleep habits you’ve developed. Chronic stress, late-night blue light from screens, untreated insomnia, or even a loud snoring partner can regularly disrupt getting consistent, high-quality sleep.

Pay attention to lifestyle factors or medical issues that could be sabotaging your ability to get enough deep, restful sleep on a routine basis. If you suspect that sleep disruption has been persisting night after night for weeks or months, the constant follicular disturbance can add up to significant hair loss over time.

Your hair can be a mirror of your overall well-being, so listening to these subtle cues is a caring step towards taking care of your health.

Small Changes, Big Impact: Lifestyle Tweaks for Hair and Sleep

The good news is that hair loss related to lack of sleep can often be reversed by improving sleep habits and making other positive lifestyle changes. Here are some easy ways to support your sleep and hair health:

  • Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine to wind down each evening.
  • Limit exposure to screens and bright lights before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine or heavy meals too close to sleep.
  • Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
  • Invest in comfortable bedding and experiment with pillows.
  • Try natural sleep aids like chamomile tea or supplemental melatonin.
  • Practice stress-reducing activities like light yoga, meditation or prayer.
  • Get regular exercise, but not too close to bedtime.

Dietary changes can also help. Enjoy foods rich in antioxidants like berries, nuts and green tea. Get adequate protein from sources like eggs, fatty fish and beans to support hair growth.

With some restful nights and self-care, your locks will soon be on the mend.

Treatments for Those Sleepless Nights Affecting Your Hair

If you've been diligently working on your sleep and lifestyle habits but still find yourself concerned about significant hair loss, please remember that you're not alone, and there are additional options available under medical guidance that could offer support:

Prescription Medications

Avodart (Dutasteride) and Propecia (Finasteride)

Avodart
Avodart
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Avodart (Dutasteride) and Propecia (Finasteride) are oral medications that work by blocking the hormone DHT, which causes hair follicles to shrink and degrade over time in common male and female pattern baldness. They could be options if hair loss persists despite better sleep. However, potential side effects like erectile dysfunction and reduced libido should be reviewed with your doctor.

Mild Corticosteroids

These are anti-inflammatory steroid medications that may help with autoimmune-related hair loss conditions such as alopecia areata, for which sleep deprivation can be a trigger. They can be injected or applied topically. Side effects are generally mild but can include skin atrophy if overused. Proper sleep remains vital.

Over-the-Counter Options

Regaine for Women (Minoxidil)

Regaine for Women (Minoxidil) is a treatment you put right on your scalp to help wake up your hair follicles and encourage them to grow hair. It works by improving blood flow and nutrients to the follicles while altering potassium channels. It’s available without a prescription and may help manage hair thinning associated with poor sleep as you work to improve rest. Results are temporary unless the use is ongoing.

Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo and Alpecin Double Effect

Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo and Alpecin Double Effect have caffeine in them, which can make the blood vessels around your hair roots tighter. This helps make your hair stronger and keeps it growing for longer. It may support healthier hair affected by sleep deprivation. Use caution if sensitive to caffeine.

Note on Treatment and Sleep Improvement

While hair loss products can provide visible improvements, adequate high-quality sleep remains essential for your overall health. Prioritise your sleep health, as the products themselves do not improve sleep duration or quality. For optimal hair regrowth and health, diligently combine treatments with proper rest habits under your doctor’s supervision.

Embracing a Sleep-First Approach for Hair Care

Getting adequate, high-quality sleep needs to become your top priority for supporting hair health. Try adopting a regular nightly routine:

  • One hour before bedtime, switch off electronic devices like phones, tablets, and TVs to avoid stimulating blue light. Dim bright overhead lights and transition to relaxing activities like light yoga, gentle music, or reading a paper book instead.
  • Thirty minutes before sleep, start a soothing pre-bed ritual - take a warm Epsom salt bath around 40°C, listen to calming white noise or music around 50 decibels, practice deep breathing exercises, meditate, or reflect on positive thoughts and gratitude.
  • Prepare your sleep environment by lowering the temperature to around 18°C, using thick blackout curtains or an eye mask, eliminating noise with a white noise machine set to around 60 decibels or foam earplugs, and ensuring comfort with a medium-firm memory foam pillow.
  • Follow a very consistent sleep and wake time schedule, even on weekends. This helps set your circadian rhythm, which regulates hormone balance. Go to bed and get up at the exact same times daily. Most adults need 7-9 hours per night.
  • Avoid stimulating activities, heavy protein-rich meals, sugary foods, excessive fluids, alcohol and caffeine at least 3-4 hours before getting into bed.

Over time, diligently sticking to this tailored regimen will help optimise the quantity and quality of sleep necessary for your hair’s health and growth cycles. Prioritising restorative rest now will help reduce future thinning and excessive shedding.

Today’s Action for Tomorrow’s Hair

Ready to take action? Here are steps you can start today to improve sleep and hair health:

  • Evaluate your current sleep habits and bedroom - look for changes to optimise your sleep environment.
  • Talk to your doctor if you suspect a sleep disorder or health condition is affecting your sleep.
  • Begin winding down 1-2 hours before bedtime by dimming lights, avoiding screens, and establishing a calming nightly routine.
  • Be consistent with sleep and wake times, even on weekends, to set your circadian rhythm.
  • Rule out dietary triggers like alcohol, caffeine or spicy foods in the evening.
  • Try natural sleep aids like magnesium or herbal tea before considering medications.
  • Use a sleep-tracking app to better understand your sleep quality and patterns.
  • Consider temporary OTC hair loss treatments like minoxidil or caffeine shampoos while improving sleep habits.

With a few simple steps today, you’ll be on your way to improved sleep and hair health in no time.

Start Your Hair Regrowth Journey With The Independent Pharmacy

If you're feeling distressed about hair loss that may be connected to a lack of sleep, it's important to know that your feelings are valid and that with the right support, there are many paths to finding solutions. The Independent Pharmacy provides personalised guidance so you can regain control of your hair health.

Schedule a private consultation online today with our clinical team. Fill in your self-assessment and let us know about your symptoms. Together, we’ll explore which treatment approaches are best suited for your unique needs and goals.

Access proven hair regrowth medications conveniently, whether over-the-counter minoxidil foam or appropriate prescription options after diagnosis. Have your selected treatments rapidly delivered to your home in discreet, unmarked packaging by our trusted courier service.

Receive advice and reassurance from our friendly experts about your condition. We’re here to understand your concerns and empower you to feel confident at every step of your hair regrowth journey.

Visit The Independent Pharmacy website now to book your insulation and browse our wide selection of effective hair treatments. Call 0333 2200 519 to speak with our caring team.

The first step toward the full, healthy hair you deserve starts today.

FAQs

Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?

Hair loss can sometimes result from deficiencies in key vitamins that support follicle health, including vitamin D and B complex vitamins like biotin and iron. Having bloodwork done to check your levels of these vitamins may be worthwhile if hair loss is a concern. Addressing any deficiencies through diet changes or supplements may aid regrowth.

Why is my hair falling out so much?

Excessive shedding beyond the normal 100 hairs per day can arise for many reasons. Most commonly, it is due to genetics, hormonal shifts, high stress levels, poor nutrition, thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, certain medications, and lack of sufficient quality sleep. Since the causes are complex, it’s best to consult a knowledgeable dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis if you’re losing more hair than normal.

Is lack of sleep hair loss reversible?

In many cases, yes. Hair loss related to temporary triggers like short-term stress or insufficient deep sleep can often be reversed once the underlying cause is treated and removed. The key is focusing on improving overall health habits, including getting enough restful sleep consistently. Your locks should recover.

Are 5 hours of sleep enough?

For most adults, getting only 5 hours of sleep or less per night is not enough for optimal health, function and well-being. Doctors strongly recommend getting 7-9 full hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep on a regular basis to operate your best and avoid chronic disease risks.

What does thyroid hair loss look like?

Hair loss related to thyroid disorders often manifests as a gradual, diffuse thinning of hair density evenly across the whole scalp. Sometimes, a wider part line also becomes noticeable. Since this pattern could indicate a thyroid issue, having your levels tested is wise if you are experiencing such hair changes.

Sources:

Melatonin: a hormone used for sleep problems - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Hair loss - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Sleep problems - Every Mind Matters - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Sleep Environment - The Sleep Charity

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