“Many people with acne sleep well — the most recent study showed that 50.3% percent of individuals with acne reported restful sleep,” explains Heather D. Rogers, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Seattle, Washington. “Yet, for the other half, is the poor sleep contributing to their acne, and if we could improve their sleep quality, would their skin quality improve? If we treat their acne, would their sleep improve? These are the next questions we need to study.”

It’s been shown that unhealthy sleep habits can trigger insulin resistance, increase stress, spike cortisol levels, and impact hormones that are typically associated with acne. And Naana Boakye, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and founder of Bergen Dermatology, points out that sleep is vital to general skin health. 

“There are many theories why [acne may affect sleep quality of sleep], but it has not been confirmed,” says Dr. Boakye. “Poor sleep quality is associated with skin aging and impaired skin barrier because it releases inflammatory markers in the skin, decreases the body’s immune system and can trigger insulin resistance.” Additionally, stress increases glucocorticoids and adrenal androgens (carbon steroids) that can cause the sebaceous glands to proliferate, which means an increase in sebum production that worsens acne.

There’s also skin and sleep’s connection to quality of life, which possibly affect one another in a round robin manner as these studies could suggest. “Studies have shown the severity of acne can be correlated with poorer quality of life and symptoms of depression,” Chapman says. “Fatigue can be a symptom of depression and patients whose lives have been impacted by severe acne have reported also feeling more stressed.”

At the end of the day, the best thing you can do for both your sleep and skin is maintain a healthy lifestyle. “In order to control acne, it is imperative to manage emotional stress, exercise regularly, and eat a plant-forward diet,” says Dr. Boakye. 

To which we say, all you can do is control what you can.

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