School and author of the book Skin Deep, studies the mind-body connection in skin diseases. Grossbart points out that emotional issues can trigger outbreaks or make existing outbreaks worse, but he has also found that sleep disturbances sometimes result in higher levels of hormones and adrenaline, which can increase production of the oily substance sebum that clogs pores. Paul Martin, in his book Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams, notes that sleep deprivation weakens the skin’s ability to act as a barrier against dirt. He also points to a study in which animals that were deprived of sleep for long periods developed what he called “unsightly skin disorders.” The National Sleep Foundation states that sleep deprivation makes one more prone to pimples and contributes to acne and other skin problems. While more research is ongoing, it looks as though lack of sleep, especially for adolescents and young adults, can increase and worsen skin problems.
Kids who get their “beauty rest,” though, can significantly improve their skin’s appearance. Recently, when I went to greet a patient in my waiting room, I looked and looked and couldn’t find him. But he was sitting there—I just didn’t recognize him. He’d finally been getting the sleep he needed, and his acne had cleared up considerably and his sallow skin had pinked up. Not only that, but being rested had also erased that baggy-eyed, bedraggled look he had sported for so long. And because he wasn’t as irritable and angry as he had been, he looked a lot better—and readily acknowledged he was a lot happier.
According to research studies, sleep deprivation, especially the restriction of REM sleep time, may cause increased sensitivity to acute pain. The Arthritis Foundation of New South Wales reports that sleep loss can precipitate muscle pain and that it’s likely that at least some of the pain that accompanies arthritis and other joint disorders is associated with sleep deprivation. Sleep loss interferes with the body’s ability to heal and can aggravate pain and discomfort. Medically healthy kids whose sleep is restricted may also take longer to recover from bumps, bruises, and broken bones.