Sleep deprivation is a type of stress and stress is a well-known killer of hair health. Stress, whether physical or mental, such as in the form of physical trauma, a car accident, surgery, pregnancy or childbirth, or a serious illness, the cold, or even lack of sleep can lead to temporary hair loss. This can promote a kind of hair loss known as telogen effluvium. Your hair has a preset life cycle: a growing phase, rest phase, and falling phase. When you go through a very traumatic instance, it can shake your hair cycle, thus pushing it more towards the falling phase.
Sleep plays a key role in allowing the body to repair and rejuvenate, and a range of factors can impact hair growth. Changes in sleeping patterns have been shown to impact the body's immune system, mental and physical stamina, and hormone secretion. The hair is quite sensitive to alterations inside the body, and hair loss is nearly always the aftermath of an internal issue.
Stress is a cause of hair loss, especially telogen effluvium. However, stress can also result in genetic hair loss and speed up its progression. Those who are already susceptible to female pattern hair loss or male pattern baldness, stress can trigger, worsen and accelerate the problem even more.
While some people can live on just 3 - 4 hours of sleep each night without stress, others cannot function if their 8 hours a night is disturbed over an extensive period. Emotional stress and daytime exhaustion are the primary symptoms of stress and sleep deprivation.
Lack of sleep can disturb the immune system. The body starts to get weak, thereby failing to absorb the much-needed nutrients to stay healthy. This, in turn, results in two main problems. First, the body's immune system becomes less effective and more vulnerable to diseases. These diseases then attack the body and further worsen its defense mechanism. Side effects of these diseases often include hair loss. Second, the body's immune system, owing to nutrient deficiency, becomes weak. Consequently, the hair roots also become weak, and hair starts falling out easily. Over time, this can cause balding. Other effects of sleep deprivation on the health of your hair include:
- Loss of hair volume
- a receding hairline
- Diffused hair throughout the scalp
- Loss of hair shine
- Dormant hair follicles
When your body is not getting sufficient rest, it becomes stressed. And when the body is stressed, it can trigger telogen effluvium. Telogen is the name of the resting phase of the hair cycle, and Telogen Effluvium is probably the second most widespread form of hair loss. TE takes place when there is a change in the number of hair follicles that are growing hair. If the quantity of hair follicles drops dramatically due to stress or any other reason during the resting stage, there will be a noticeable increase in dormant, telogen phase hair follicles. The result is shedding or hair loss.
Studies carried out on animals back up the belief that chronic stress is a primary cause of chronic telogen effluvium. It is believed that stress affects the chemistry of our hair follicles, leading to a great number of hair follicles going in the rest phase at a given time. However, if you work on reducing your stress, you can reinstate the natural hair cycle and stimulate healthy growth.
What Can Be Done?
The only way to overcome hair loss and poor hair health that is the result of sleep deprivation is through making lifestyle changes. This includes eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient sleep at night. If you struggle to get a good night's sleep because of stress or anxiety then incorporating the below tips will help you get past that problem.
- Eat Right– In addition to consuming a balanced diet that comprises of protein, minerals, and vitamins, eating foods like chocolate, blueberries, spinach, and almonds can help improve your mood and alleviate anxiety. On the other hand, simple carb foods like pasta and candy may bring temporary relief but could ultimately increase feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Exercise Regularly – The act of indulging in physical activity sends nutrients and oxygen to your body's cells, thus enabling your lungs and heart to work more efficiently, increasing energy levels and also improving symptoms of mild to moderate stress. Furthermore, going through the strenuous act of exercising can tire out your body, thus enabling you to get a deep and peaceful sleep during the nighttime.
A 2005 Harvard study suggests that walking briskly for around 35 minutes every day for five days a week can work to improve symptoms of depression. Numerous mood-boosting workouts can be found online.
- Listen to some relaxing tunes – A 2013 study suggests that listening to lively or cheery beats significantly helped improve participants’ moods, both in the short and long terms.
- Hot Bath - As it turns out, you are never too old for a warm bubble bath, particularly when it comes to getting good quality sleep. A study published in the Journal Sleep concluded that women experiencing a sleep disorder who took a hot bath for around 90 – 120 minutes slept much better as compared to those who didn't. The ideal temperature for bath water ranges from 98 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.