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Does Lack of Sleep Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Sian Ferguson

Updated 04/29/2024

After a long night of tossing and turning, you wake up to an alarming amount of stray hairs on your pillow. You start wondering if the two are linked. Does lack of sleep cause hair loss?

In short, not directly. However, factors like poor mental health, stress and underlying medical conditions may explain the connection between poor sleep and hair loss.

Losing out on a few nights of solid sleep probably won’t affect your hair. But getting enough rest is still essential for your overall health. A lack of Zs doesn’t just result in bags under your eyes and a serious case of morning sluggishness — it can damage your mental health, immune system and blood pressure, among other things.

And while sleep deprivation itself doesn’t cause hair loss, sleeplessness can be caused by health issues that also cause thinner, less healthy hair.

Let’s take a look at the potential link between sleeplessness and hair health. We’ll also discuss science-backed hacks for hair restoration and better sleep.

It’s no secret that sleeplessness can affect your appearance — after all, there’s a reason the term “beauty sleep” exists.

But can sleep deprivation cause hair loss? If it can, why does lack of sleep affect hair loss?

No current research shows that a single night of lost sleep will have any effect on your scalp. Likewise, no studies have found that an ongoing lack of sleep causes hair loss in itself.

A 2020 study of over 1,800 people with female pattern hair loss (aka androgenetic alopecia, the same disorder as male pattern hair loss) found that poor sleep quality increased participants’ rate of hair loss.

The researchers found that those with poorer sleep quality (as well as increased alcohol intake, frequent ponytail hairstyles and oilier scalps) were more likely to suffer more severe hair loss.

Now, the study didn’t draw the conclusion that sleep itself was the determining factor for hair problems. The authors pointed out that sleep quality is often associated with other factors like stress levels and workload.

Which is exactly the issue. Though sleep deprivation itself might not trigger hair loss, both issues could be symptoms of another problem.

Let’s dig in deeper to understand the potential relationship between lack of sleep and hair loss.

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Stress, Sleeplessness and Hair Loss

In the same way stress can cause sleeplessness, it might lead to hair loss.

There’s a well-known link between stress and hair loss. Although high levels of stress can’t cause male pattern hair loss, it can trigger and potentially worsen a type of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium.

When you’re constantly stressed, you’ll have chronically high cortisol levels. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, has been linked to poor hair health. How so? Elevated cortisol levels can affect hair follicles and disrupt the hair growth cycle.

Telogen effluvium can also be triggered by:

  • Severe shock

  • Traumatic events

  • Surgery

  • Severe blood loss

  • Major illnesses and infections

  • Pregnancy and childbirth

…all of which are stressful enough to keep you from getting some shut-eye.

It’s no secret that stress can keep you up at night — or that poor sleep can leave you feeling incapable of coping with stress. In fact, a recent review shows that sleeplessness can worsen stress, and vice versa. A vicious, cruel cycle, right?

So, if you’re noticing your hair fall out after a bout of sleeplessness, ask yourself if another factor is at play.

Illness, Sleep and Hair Fall-Out

If you’ve noticed an increase in hair loss and are having trouble getting enough hours of sleep, an illness might be at the root of both problems.

As mentioned, telogen effluvium hair loss can happen a few months after experiencing severe illness or infections — both of which might affect your sleep.

But other illnesses may cause hair loss as well as sleep issues.

For example, thyroid conditions might make your hair shed significantly. Both hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) are linked to hair issues, although the link between the thyroid and hair loss isn’t fully understood.

You know what else your thyroid can affect? Sleep quality and energy levels.

A 2021 study found that people with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism may be more likely to experience sleep conditions like insomnia, restless legs syndrome (RLS) and obstructive sleep apnea.

So, if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, think about getting your thyroid hormone levels checked.

Sleep and Trichotillomania

Ever absentmindedly pulled out some hair while sitting in traffic, stressing over a work problem or having a tense conversation with a loved one?

While this might happen to anyone, some folks have a constant, compulsive urge to pull out their hair. This is a mental health condition called trichotillomania.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and related mental health conditions — including trichotillomania — are associated with sleep disorders.

Another 2021 study found some potential links between sleep deprivation and trichotillomania. Those with trichotillomania were less likely to get enough hours of sleep than people who didn’t have the condition.

The study didn’t make it clear whether sleep could cause the condition — just that there was a correlation between poor sleep habits and frequency of hair pulling.

As you can imagine, constant hair-pulling doesn’t just lead to hair breakage. It can also put a lot of pressure on your hair follicles — to the point where growth might slow down or stop altogether.

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Usually, yes — but this depends on what’s causing both issues.

As mentioned, if there’s a link between lack of sleep and hair loss, it’s probably because of stress, illness or trichotillomania. There’s a chance your hair can recover from hair loss if it’s caused by those issues.

It might be wise to take a three-pronged approach here: Address whatever’s causing your hair loss, use quality hair-loss treatments and work on improving sleep patterns.

Address the Underlying Issue With Hair Loss

It’s best to act ASAP to figure out what’s contributing to your hair loss. We highly recommend speaking with a healthcare professional to determine what’s making your hair fall out.

You might also need to get blood tests to check for underlying illnesses or vitamin deficiencies.

From there, you can address those issues directly. This might look like:

  • Taking prescription medication to manage health conditions

  • Improving your diet or using supplements to boost your vitamin intake

  • Using positive stress-relief methods to manage anxiety

  • Seeking mental health care to cope with chronic stress or trichotillomania

  • Going to trauma debriefing after a shocking or traumatic experience

It may take time for you (and your follicles) to recover after stress, illness or infection. But your hair will most likely grow back.

Use Science-Backed Hair Treatments

To speed up the hair regrowth process, you can use one or more science-backed hair loss treatments. This might include:

  • Finasteride. Finasteride is an FDA-approved oral medication that reduces your body’s levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) — a hormone linked to male pattern baldness.

  • Minoxidil. Minoxidil is an FDA-approved, over-the-counter topical treatment that can treat many types of hair loss. It’s available in the form of minoxidil foam or minoxidil liquid solution.

  • Finasteride and minoxidil together. Our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray combines both science-backed treatments to stimulate hair growth.

  • Supplements. Hair-friendly supplements like our biotin gummies have the nutrients your body needs to grow healthy hair.

  • In-shower products. A volumizing shampoo and volumizing conditioner can breathe new life into thin, limp hair while keeping your mane healthy and clean.

  • Saw palmetto shampoo. Our thickening shampoo with saw palmetto which may promote thick, healthy-looking hair. This herbal ingredient is a natural DHT blocker.

Recover From Sleeplessness

If your sleep quality is so bad right now that you’re Googling whether it’s making your hair fall out, we don’t need to tell you that it’s probably time to seek expert advice.

A healthcare professional might prescribe one or more of these treatment options:

  • A melatonin supplement

  • Histamine-1 receptor medications

  • GABA-A receptor medications

They might also suggest sleep hygiene techniques, like improving your sleep environment so it’s less stimulating (think blackout curtains and no screens).

You may also benefit from seeing a therapist who specializes in treating sleep issues, especially if your sleeplessness is stress-related.

These treatments might not improve your hairline directly, but maintaining a proper sleep schedule will certainly help you feel better overall.

A lack of sleep can send your stress hormones out of whack, and severe stress can be a contributing factor of hair loss. So in theory, logging more hours of shut-eye could help you avoid stress-induced hair loss.

But this isn’t the only piece of the puzzle — and stress isn’t the only potential cause of hair loss.

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Can sleep deprivation cause hair loss? If so, why does lack of sleep cause hair loss?

Insufficient shut-eye probably won’t directly cause hair loss. But getting enough sleep is an absolute necessity when it comes to maintaining overall well-being — both mental and physical.

  • A lack of sleep doesn’t directly cause hair loss. At least, there’s little evidence that it does. Indirectly, though, sleeplessness can worsen stress, which can, in turn, affect your hairline.

  • Both sleeplessness and hair loss could be caused by underlying medical conditions. Major illnesses, infections and conditions like thyroid disease can cause hair loss and sleep issues.

  • There are many evidence-based hair loss treatments to try. Most types of hair loss can be slowed down or stopped. Treatments like finasteride, minoxidil, supplements and quality hair-care products can help.

Sleeplessness, like hair loss, can be a sign you need to make an appointment with a medical professional. Both can be symptoms of underlying conditions — and, usually, both can be treated.

If you’d like to get help from the comfort of your own home, we can connect you with a healthcare professional for an online consultation. They’ll be able to help you figure out why you’re seeing some extra hairs in the shower drain and come up with an effective treatment plan.

7 Sources

  1. Rafi, A. W., & Katz, R. M. (2011). Pilot Study of 15 Patients Receiving a New Treatment Regimen for Androgenic Alopecia: The Effects of Atopy on AGA. ISRN dermatology, 2011, 241953. https://doi.org/10.5402/2011/241953. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262531/.
  2. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug design, development and therapy, 13, 2777–2786. https://doi.org/10.2147/DDDT.S214907. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/.
  3. Hughes EC, Saleh D. Telogen Effluvium. [Updated 2022 Jun 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/.
  4. Kaur H, Spurling BC, Bollu PC. Chronic Insomnia. [Updated 2022 Jul 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526136/.
  5. Yi Y, Li X, Jia J, Guy Didier DN, Qiu J, Fu J, Mao X, Miao Y, Hu Z. Effect of Behavioral Factors on Severity of Female Pattern Hair Loss: An Ordinal Logistic Regression Analysis. Int J Med Sci. 2020 Jun 27;17(11):1584-1588. doi: 10.7150/ijms.45979. PMID: 32669961; PMCID: PMC7359394. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359394/.
  6. Cavic E, Valle S, Chamberlain SR, Grant JE. Sleep quality and its clinical associations in trichotillomania and skin picking disorder. Compr Psychiatry. 2021 Feb;105:152221. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2020.152221. Epub 2020 Dec 24. PMID: 33395591; PMCID: PMC7871011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7871011/.
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, April 20). How stress causes hair loss. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-stress-causes-hair-loss.
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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