Sleep and Acne

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Sadly, I am a super-authority on this subject.  I suffered from extreme insomnia for almost ten years.  I am talking about countless nights tossing and turning and not falling asleep until the early hours of the morning.  Crying, anxiety just thinking about having to go to bed, and tearful visits to the sleep clinic.  And the results of not sleeping were even worse: my skin was inflamed with acne, my anxiety made my life uncontrollable, my hormones were severely unbalanced, I was too tired to do all the things I really wanted to do, my marriage was stressed and I was so sad.  Insomnia affected every part of my life. If you suffer from sleep issues, I totally understand your torment.  If you have acne as well, I am sending you a huge hug right now.  Chances are that you are caught in an awful viscous cycle of stress, adrenal dysregulation and acne.  I know it well, I know how it affects your body, but I also (luckily) know how to help you heal. The truth is in the research: you need 8 hours of sleep per night and sleep is as important as diet and exercise when it comes to clearing up your skin and balancing your body.  Straight from my heart to all those acne-insomnia sufferers – let me break it down for you. How does a chronic lack of sleep contribute to acne?  Please don’t let this list totally freak you out and contribute to your anxiety.  As you read through this, remember that there is a solution.  Coming up next.
  1. Increased insulin resistance.  Acne and insulin resistance are like bread and butter.  They just go together.  Research has shown that long-term sleep deprivation can increase insulin levels by as much as 40-50%, which aggravates insulin resistance and increases androgen production – which, of course, leads to acne.
  2. Decreased leptin levels. Do you find that when you are tired you crave carbohydrates more?  That is because a lack of sleep reduces a hormone called leptin.  Leptin is responsible for telling us when we have eaten enough, so lower levels of leptin will lead to increased hunger, carbohydrate cravings, and an increased chance of straying from your Clear Skin Diet – which can easily lead to more acne.
  3. Decreased immune system. A chronic lack of sleep also reduces the efficacy of the immune system, which means that inflammation and infection are more likely to manifest.  Since acne is a result of both inflammation and infection, well, you get it, right?  More acne.
  4. Increased circulating estrogens. Whenever the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is elevated acne is more likely to occur – especially premenstrual acne.  A lack of sleep will increase estrogen levels which will aggravate hormonal acne.
  5. Decreased healing and recovery. I know, there’s more.  When you do not get enough sleep the body does not heal properly.  Not only does that mean that your acne is going to take longer to go away, but it also means that you will be more prone to scarring and hyper-pigmentation.
  6. A chronic lack of sleep is a huge source of stress for the body. This leads to dysregulated cortisol production in the adrenal glands that can result in adrenal fatigue.  Which aggravates insomnia even more.  This is the classic viscous insomnia cycle that I mentioned earlier.  This is the reason why you actually cannot sleep, and this is the system in your body that must be healed for you to get your sleep back, heal your body and clear up your skin for good.  But – this viscous cycle also is a huge contributer to acne because when cortisol is released from the adrenal glands, often an androgenic hormone called DHEAs is release as well, which directly increases acne.
  How do you repair your sleep cycle so that you can get rid of your acne?
  1. Reduce stress.  Saying no, meditating, practicing gratitude, yoga and deep breathing are all excellent ways to reduce stress in your life.  Chronic stress triggers cortisol to be released from the adrenal glands, which not only contributes to adrenal dysregulation but it also can trigger the release of DHEAs, a potent androgen that contributes to acne.
  2. Do not exercise in the evening. If you have difficulty sleeping, do not exercise in the evening.  Exercise can trigger a cortisol release from your adrenal glands – and in the evening the focus should be on reducing cortisol levels.
  3. Relax in the evening. Establish a calming routine that lulls you into a peaceful, tranquil state.  No screen time 2 hours before bed (this is very stimulating for your brain and can lead to a disruption in your circadian rhythm).  A relaxing bath. Reading a book. Diffusing some lavender essential oil throughout your home.  The focus is on keeping your cortisol levels low.
  4. Regulate your blood sugar levels. This is especially important if you wake during the night.  Cortisol is key for regulating blood sugar levels and dysregulated cortisol levels create erratic blood sugar levels.  Often cortisol levels are not adequate to sustain blood sugar levels throughout the entire night, and when blood glucose dips to low, the body automatically wakes up to refuel.
  5. Support your adrenal glands with an adaptogenic herb. Caution here!  Most adaptagenic herbs are too stimulating for acne patients – they actually lead to more acne.
  6. Get to bed before 10pm. If you stay up past this time you may experience a cortisol spike, otherwise known as a ‘second wind’.  This can keep you up for hours.  To prevent this, be in bed and asleep before it hits.
  7. Follow a schedule.  This is the number one treatment for adrenal dysregulation and insomnia.  Eat at regular intervals throughout the day.  Never skip a meal, and if necessary add in a few snacks as well.   Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.  Even if you don’t sleep all night, you must still get up at your regular wake time, and then go to bed at your regular sleep time.  In the beginning, this may seem insane, but it is critical to re-establish your sleep cycle and clear up your skin!
  If you need help clearing your skin, balancing your body and getting your sleep back, please let me help you!  Check out my 7-Week Clear Skin Program.  This is the program that you need to get your self-confidence back and truly heal your skin from the inside out.  I am so excited to help you on your clear skin journey! Xo, Dr. Stacey    

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