Being perpetually tired is a common complaint, and if it’s not you personally who can’t seem to go two minutes without yawning, you’ll likely know someone else who fits the bill. But did you know that extreme fatigue can lead to hair loss?
This is because lack of sleep is a form of stress: it wreaks havoc with a number of important biological functions. Feeling tired can also be caused by a wide range of medical conditions, and these in turn can lead to hair loss. In fact, the NHS Livewell website lists at least 10 complaints that can cause extreme tiredness, including an underactive thyroid, anaemia, anxiety and diabetes.
While thinning hair seems an unlikely by-product of a medical condition that has no obvious connection to the scalp, the correlation between hair loss and coeliac disease, say, which is also on the NHS list, can be better understood if you view the body as an inter-connected whole, rather than independent components.
While there are certainly hair loss conditions that can arise as a direct result of problems with the scalp, Scarring Alopecia and Traction Alopecia among them, others seem many miles removed from the medical condition that may be causing them. It can sometimes seem that a light turned on in Paris is causing a window to open in Preston (so to speak)!
But it usually doesn’t take a PhD to work out what is going on. In cases of excessive shedding that coincide with a chronic lack of sleep, the stress on the body can lead to a temporary hair loss condition called Telogen Effluvium. What happens is that certain follicles respond to the stress of fatigue by going into the Telogen (resting) phase of the hair growth cycle. As a result, they fall out between around three months later.
A little harder to comprehend but still not rocket science is the fact that stress on the body can force an existing genetic condition to speed up or be made worse. This explains why cases of Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss are increasingly being linked to a lack of sleep and stress. Though these conditions were inevitable because they had been pre-ordained by genetics, it is sometimes the fact that the body is not operating at full strength that causes this kind of hair thinning to come on faster or stronger than it might otherwise have done.
Similarly easy to grasp is the notion that some of the treatment drugs used by people with all sorts of illnesses list hair loss as a side effect. This usually results in Telogen Effluvium again, only this time the body has been “shocked” or “stressed” not by the illness but by the drug being taken to treat it. Among the many medications in this category are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, as well as drugs for diabetes, underactive thyroid conditions, anaemia and more.
There are effective telogen effluvium treatment courses and clinically-proven medications, including high strength minoxidil which is suitable for both men and women, that can help in most of the above cases when used properly. Regrowth is almost always possible for thinning hair that has been caused directly by exhaustion, by an illness that leads to fatigue, or indeed by a drug designed to treat that illness. Addressing the underlying cause of the tiredness is obviously, however, key in returning the hair to a healthy state.
Quite often, feeling permanently tired and suddenly noticing extra hairs on your pillow leads to an easy diagnosis of Telogen Effluvium, and the good news here is that most cases will clear themselves up after several months if the underlying problem – a good night’s sleep – can be sorted out. A bespoke hair loss treatment course can help give you the best possible chance of success.
As ever, a professional diagnosis will likely get you on the right track – and is always worth the effort as sometimes a person’s hair loss is a clue to a more pressing medical problem.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.