How to Sleep with Eczema
Falling asleep while battling itchy skin needs thought and some clever problem-solving.
When you have atopic dermatitis, getting those hours of rest are even more essential, but the skin’s signals of irritation may be getting in your way.
Sleep is the oldest beauty secret known to humankind. But when you can’t sleep because your skin is acting up, one of your body’s primary restorative functions is disrupted. This bad spiral can lead to frustration and stress, which also contribute negatively to your skin.
3 ways eczema (atopic dermatitis) may affect your sleep:
- You feel itchier. At night, there is more trans-epidermal water loss. You may also ‘sleep hot.’ As your body temperature increases, itchiness can occur. 2-3 hours after falling asleep, your cortisol levels can spike, and this may set off an inflammatory reaction.
- You are unable to fall asleep. You’re just too darn itchy to get into a snooze.
- There is a change to your preferred sleeping position. Side sleeper? Back sleeper? When the eczema flare-ups occur on the part of your body you need to lie on in order to drift off, the bodily discomfort of staying prone in a position that doesn’t work, can keep you up for hours.
The sleepless nights can drive any person crazy. But it may be possible to improve your quality of sleep with eczema through lifestyle adjustments.
Check your sheets.
Sheets made of natural fibres such as bamboo, linen or cotton can be more breathable and sweat-wicking. This allows the air to cool down and prevents sweat from gathering within the layers. It helps prevent overheating of the body during nighttime.
Change your detergent.
Many detergents can linger on the sheets and thus incite itching all over the body. People without eczema can also experience this! Look for detergents that are designed for sensitive skin. Fabric softeners can also leave a fragrant residue that can set off sensitive skin. When in doubt for what to buy, try the baby aisle. Many products designed to be safe for babies will also be mild enough for you.
Cool the room.
Using a fan, cool gel packs, or leaving a window open (as long as it’s not noisy) can help. Heat and sweat both trigger eczema, and by keeping a breeze in the room, you can manage your body’s temperature elevation.
Shower and moisturize before bed.
Avoid extremely hot showers. Bathe in lukewarm water and with gentle natural soaps (free of sebum stripping ingredients like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). Then, moisturize your body after bathing with a body oil or salve. Do it within 3 minutes, while the air in the bathroom is still humid.
Focus on the problem
Are you having trouble falling asleep or are you being woken up? The goal is to reduce disruptions in your sleep. Doing a walkthrough of your bedroom can identify small triggers that are contributing to your restlessness, such as a blinking phone charger light or blinds that aren’t dark enough. Are you struggling to sleep after being woken up by itching? Have a cooling gel pack always on the ready to cool down inflamed skin. Sometimes, only you know what works, and close observation may yield insights.
Get a habit going
When your work or lifestyle is irregular, sleeping is even harder. The body’s circadian rhythm needs regularity to function well. Go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day—even on weekends! Avoid exposure to blue light via electronics a few hours before bed, and maybe stay away from caffeine after midday.