Not sleeping enough can cause acne

Yun Eun Hye looking sleepy

My skin has been misbehaving a little over the past week and I see new pimples popping out in a few places.  It’s not PMS and I haven’t changed anything apart from sleeping late so I believe the lack of sleep has been causing my skin grief. 

Study on acne vulgaris linked to lack of sleep
In fact, through my online research, I found that in an epidemiological study of acne vulgaris conducted in Japan by the Japanese Journal of Dermatology, 58.6% of the 793 students ranging from the sixth grade of elementary school to nursing or medical school were polled and more than half of them stated that lack of sleep as one of the exacerbating factors.

Inflammatory cytokines promote acne production
Apparently, a lack of sleep can increase inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines has high in proteins that is a major cause of acne when the intake is too much.  According to the book Acne and Its Therapy, cytokines interferes with the secretion of natural lipid from the sebaceous glands and makes the skin more proned to acne production.

Lack of sleep promotes stress and acne
When I sleep late, I also noticed that my skin actually secretes more sebum, and this probably explains why it results in new acne.  Again, from what I’ve read, a lack of sleep will promote stress and that causes an increase in the substance cortisol in the body. Cortisol in turn, causes the skin to secrete more sebum, which results in acne.  And Dr. Gil Yosipovich, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine suggested that stress-related inflammation maybe to blame for the breakouts. “Our research suggests that acne severity associated with stress may result from factors others than sebum quantity. It’s possible that inflammation may be involved.” (source)

Increase insulin resistance linked to acne-proned
Another factor connecting sleep deprivation to acne is the increase insulin resistance (source), which can contribute to one being acne-proned according to this medical article on acne causes.  This is because insulin resistance can increase glucose or sugar that is one of the major causes of acne.

Sleep deprivation is one of the major culprits for acne
There are of course many other factors contributing to acne.  For me, besides hormonal factor, a lack of sleep and a wrong diet are major culprits.  I wish I can sleep at 10pm or 11pm every night.  Unfortunately, much as I like to live up to my Viva Challenge, I can’t do that all the time and inevitably, my skin suffers.  I NEED MORE TIME PLEASE!


  1. bonance says:

    i know dr. gil yosipovich. im friends with his daughter and hes always giving us advice on how to have good skin. my dad used to work at wake forest and i used to go to their dermatology department for my acne. i also know the doctor from seoul university you mentioned in your other post. small world, huh?

  2. eliza says:

    very true XD

    when i always do my assignments till late of the night, next day there will be a few pimple popping up on the chin =-=. the skin is asking for too much time @-@

  3. AtelierGal says:

    Not everyone can get adequate sleep, no matter what unfortunately… Pimples, acne…they will still come one way or another lol

  4. Elaine l. says:

    hmmm was just wondering if there’s any relation as to sleeping late but waking up late since you are still getting the same number of hours of sleep. haha i always thought it was ok but my brother convinced me that the optimum time for cell regeneration is from 10-11pm onwards.

  5. pf1123 says:

    Yes. I agree with Elaine I. I have heard about the optimum time for skin renewal. Some say its from 10 to 2am, some say its 11 to 2am, etc.

    My mum also has the firm belief that sleeping late causes premature aging, including acne, wrinkles and dental problems, etc.

    After I learned of the optimum time for skin renewal, I tried to abide by it for a few years already. Sleeping by 12am most of the time. When I am super duper busy, I will sleep early (sometimes as early as 8 or 9pm) and wake up at 4am to continue working.

    Just a couple of weeks ago, I went to sign up for a credit card at a road show. The sales rep thought I was a student and gasp when she saw my tax return. Hahahaha…so sleeping early kinda worked for me. ?

  6. Amanda says:

    Oh dear, I guess I haven’t done myself any favors over the last couple of months.

    And with my current schedule, early nights would be a miracle.

    Maybe I’ll make a more conscious effort to sleep earlier this week.

    Great post, really informative! Thanks.

  7. Blovet Beauty says:

    I agree… my sleep patterns have been trashy lately and with stress mounting, my skin been looking very tired and not good:(

  8. stella says:

    on weekends (usually between a saturday and sunday), when i’m well rested in the day and know i will be having a real good long night sleep, i go without skin care to let my skin have a break from all the products i put on my face. usually my skin takes pretty well to it, no matter how late i sleep. i’d be the first to admit that i sleep at midnight or later usually…

    but when i know i’ll be sleeping very little and have to wake up early to work the next day, i slap on a good serum, moisturizer AND overnight mask. usually this is a quick fix too. i think it’s hard to adhere to good sleeping hours in city living, heh

  9. sesame says:

    Oh what a small world indeed! So I supposed you must have received good advice on your acne?

  10. sesame says:

    Don’t you wish the night is longer?

  11. sesame says:

    I guess…but it wasn’t always this bad for me. I think my skin condition has changed and it’s not as resistant as it used to be.

  12. sesame says:

    Your brother is right. The optimum time to sleep is between 10pm – 3pm. I wrote about this a few times and most recently, put up a challenge on it here:

  13. sesame says:

    You’ve got good discipline! I guess your genes is also good and that helps you looking young too. ? I used to sleep earlier and wake up earlier but I can no longer do that. I wake up about 6am or earlier so I try to sleep by 11+ if I can at the latest.

  14. sesame says:

    Hope you can try to sleep more and sleep earlier!

  15. sesame says:

    I was just thinking about the overnight mask! Which are you using? Maybe I should get one soon.

  16. sesame says:

    Try to catch more rest…at least during the weekend if you can’t afford the time during weekday.

    But your skin still looks good to me – all glowy and healthy looking!

  17. benji says:

    I agree because i am sufring from this disease sleep late night now become my hobby but it is a bad habit it cause many problems with your skin and health.

  18. stella says:

    i use the face shop raspberry roots sleeping mask. i’ve also used and like the laneige water sleeping pack, but the face shop is cheaper and is just a tad less moisturizing, which i figured doesn’t really matter since i’ve already have serum and moisturizer on my face. but i also don’t sleep in air-conditioning so less dehydrating!

  19. Janet says:

    omg…that’s good to know! wow…lack of sleep has a ton of downfalls!!!

  20. zzzmadison says:

    although i know sleeping late is bad for me, but i just can’t help staying up late! even when i’m not busy working/studying, i’d be glued to the tv =P

  21. pf1123 says:

    No need for discipline. Its a habit. And now I’m so tired that I can’t wait to sleep. hehehe…

    Oh yes, sleeping masks are quite cool too. I tried the skinfood, leneige and @nature ones. Not bad. Especially when I travel and am ALWAYS in the air con environment. But if I use in Sg, nothing significant to hoo haa about.

  22. sesame says:

    I know the feeling…sometimes I refuse to sleep because I just need to check stuff on the net!

  23. sesame says:

    Ah…I was thinking you might be using the Laneige sleep mask. I can’t remember if I’ve tried using a sleep mask. If I did, probably just once or twice…

  24. sesame says:

    Yup, sleep is important for beauty and health too!

  25. sesame says:

    Haha…another one who is reluctant to sleep.

  26. sesame says:

    Hmm…so it’s better to use when one sleeps in aircon room? I don’t sleep in aircon so I guess I can skip this.

  27. Robin @ says:

    Not only can enough sleep rid you of acne, but it can also help you lose weight! Studies show getting enough sleep can help you on your weight loss quest, so make it an effort to get into bed early and get those quality zzz’s!

  28. sesame says:

    Yes, you’re right. I read that not enough sleep can make people fat! Such an irony!

  29. pf1123 says:

    Yes, thats how I feel about sleeping mask/pack. If I stay long hours in air con environment, my skin tends to be dehydrated. Like 2 wks ago in HK, no amount of hydrating serum and mask sheets I use seems to be enough. But upon the purchase and use of the Laneige water sleeping pack, my skin looks better but not optimal.

    When I come back to Sg, hopefully to nurse my skin back to normal, I still do the hydrating serum and sleeping pack, I think its too much. Little bumps appear.

    So, I guess I have over moisturised in this humid environment.

  30. sesame says:

    Thanks for your inputs because I was recently thinking about this – if it’s a good idea to go to sleep with a mask. I guess it’s okay once in a while but not frequently.

  31. pf1123 says:

    Hey Sesame, these sleeping masks are meant to apply and sleep with. They are like moisturisers. But they are meant to be applied over your regular skin care like 2 times a week.

    They are not mask sheets or clay/peel off masks.

    The skin does appear more supple after that in the morning. Makeup adheres better. But I find the results more pronounced when the skin is really dehydrated.

  32. sesame says:

    I came across such masks before but I can’t remember if I’ve tried this before.

Leave a Reply