Sleep with Eczema
Letting Sleep Work For You in Your Eczema Recovery
Though we’d like it to, eczema doesn’t turn on and turn off when we’d like. During the vital hours of immune system recovery that occur during sleep, eczema can continue to incite dry, itchy, inflamed skin. While the many physical symptoms of eczema are well-documented, the disruptive impact on sleep is rarely spoken about. Today, we will explore how eczema affects one’s sleep, and how awareness can translate to changes that can bring improvements.
How Itching Manifests During Your Sleep
One of the primary ways in which eczema causes sleep disruption is through relentless itching. People with eczema often feel intermittent and regular itching.
During the night, this brief stimulation throughout the night makes it difficult to enter into the REM stage of sleep. A key stage in the body’s daily recovery, the REM stage is important for learning, memory, and immune repair functions. Those suffering from atopic dermatitis may find themselves falling asleep later on average, often at 2:00 am or later, reducing the hours of quality sleep that they can get.
Our internal clock is regulated by light and dark. As the day’s light fades, our brains are triggered to produce the hormone melatonin. Contrary to popular belief, naturally produced melatonin doesn’t make us sleepy at the onset of darkness, but instead prepares our body for sleeping by doing things like cooling our core body temperature.
In the hour or two before bedtime, heat escapes our body through the periphery, in particular via extremities and skin. This is believed to be one factor that contributes to increased itchiness right before bed.
For an average person, waking up two to six times a night is normal. This can include bathroom breaks, for example. For eczema sufferers, these natural bouts of wakefulness have greater implications. During these brief moments, the itching sensations become noticeable and can kickstart a scratching reflex.
Chronic itching, like the kind that result from skin conditions, are reflective of a dysfunction in the immune and nervous systems. When it comes to chronic itching, a simple scratch doesn’t eliminate the sensation, like it would on a mosquito bite. An “itch-scratch-itch” cycle can either keep you up at night, or you can find yourself scratching unconsciously through the night, waking up with more damage than you had before settling in for the night.
Tips for Quality Sleep
Pay attention to the relationship between your eczema condition and sleep. Ensure that unconscious scratching through the night doesn’t put your skin into a worse state.
- Have a bedtime routine and stick to it. Being on a consistent sleep schedule will help. It reduces the time between lying in bed and falling asleep. Our bodies are wired for habits and routines and a good system can reduce the friction that comes with the mental and physical wind-down in your evenings. But go even further, and ensure that you don’t eat dinner too soon before bed, adopt exercise appropriately (some people find exercise helps with sleep, while others find it too energizing), and shut down light sources at least 30 minutes before your intended sleeping hour.
- Limit caffeine and high sugar intakes in the afternoon. Give your body a chance to get tired, and reduce the buzzing of your thoughts in the afternoons. This tip is effective in and of itself, but for those with larger sleep-related issues, this can be a part of re-regulating your body to discover where it needs a boost. Needing more sleep can often just be a sign that rest is in short supply in your life. Lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet, not enough exercise, and not enough sunshine can also be factors. Without using caffeine as a crutch in the afternoons, you can pave the way to testing what your body might be needing for its overall health.
- Slugging on an occlusive before sleeping. This community suggestion is popular for its effectiveness on severe forms of atopic dermatitis. It involves slugging on an occlusive product, ensuring the skin is fully covered. Some variations go further, by wrapping cling wrap around the affected area. The skin is kept deeply moisturized throughout the night, reducing itching and improving its texture by morning.
- Wear light, breathable fabrics and if needed, cotton gloves. Your little nails can do a lot of damage when left for hours in the night, with free and unconscious access to itchy skin. By wearing light, breathable fabrics that won’t exacerbate the itch, you reduce part of the problem at the outset. Wearing gloves helps reduce the damage that your sharp fingernails can wreak on your skin condition.
Our Bond | Healing Body Salve is great for slugging, to provide not only occlusive protection during the night, but also to feed your skin deeply with nutrients. Oat oil has anti-inflammatory benefits, while calendula supports healing of damaged skin. Kokum and mango butters help create a thick, essential fatty acid-rich layer of protection to depleted skin. Try it as an nutrient-rich alternative to Vaseline.