Woman laying in bed and scratching her arm

Eczema and Sleep: Find Relief from Scratching at Night

Good sleep can be elusive if you have eczema: symptoms like itching can increase at night, making it difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep and get much-needed rest. 

Fortunately, practicing good sleep hygiene and caring for your skin can help minimize eczema’s impact on your quality of sleep. Here’s our guide for how to get better sleep with eczema. 

 

Understanding the Relationship Between Eczema and Sleep Disturbances 

Losing sleep, having trouble falling asleep, or frequently waking up at night reduces the amount of time your body has to restore and replenish. As a result, people who can’t get adequate sleep may struggle with daytime fatigue, mood regulation, and attention issues. These consequences can have a negative impact on how you function at work and home and can lead to an overall reduction in quality of life. 

Up to 87% of adults with eczema report sleep disturbances caused by the condition. Lack of sleep can increase stress levels—a known trigger of eczema flares. 

Going to school or navigating work with eczema is hard enough without also having to contend with sleep deprivation. The effects of sleep loss due to eczema are so great that those affected are more likely to take more sick days, go to the doctor more often, and experience poorer health outcomes overall. 

 

Why is Eczema Worse at Night?

If you notice your symptoms flaring up in the middle of the night, you’re not alone. Itchiness often increases during nighttime due to natural changes caused by your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is responsible for switching your body over to sleep mode and influences everything from wakefulness to hormonal activity, appetite to body temperature, and more.

  • Changes in body temperature: Your circadian rhythm causes your body temperature to increase at night, which can make you itch.
  • Loss of water: Your skin loses water overnight in a process called transepidermal water loss. For those without skin conditions, this isn’t a huge issue, but if you have naturally dry skin or a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, it can make symptoms worse. 
  • Hormone shifts: Your body’s natural cortisol levels are lower in the evening. That  means their anti-inflammatory effect isn’t as strong, which can lead to nighttime itch.  
  • Immune system shifts: Your body releases more cytokines (immune system proteins that support cell signaling and communication) which can cause inflammation and worsen itching. 
  • Less Distraction: Part of the process of falling asleep involves turning away from the distractions of the day, leaving you with nothing but your thoughts and the sensations your body is feeling. If one of those sensations is itching, it can be extremely difficult to ignore.
  • Additional factors: If you’re an adult dealing with a sudden onset of eczema, there may be other factors at play. For example:
    • Pregnant women may experience an uptick in eczema symptoms.
    • Teens dealing with eczema flare-ups should also be aware of the interplay between eczema and hormones.
    • Nighttime itching may also be caused by other conditions not related to eczema. If you have never experienced nighttime itching before, make sure you speak with your doctor to rule out these possibilities.

    How to Sleep with Eczema: 9 Tips That Can Help

    You don’t have to settle for sleepless nights, even with eczema. If you’ve ever caught yourself glaring at your bedroom ceiling in an itch-fueled rage or turned to your partner in the middle of the night to whisper, “I’m so itchy I can’t sleep,” these simple lifestyle changes may provide you with some relief. 

     

    1. Use Cotton Bed Linens

    Sheets made of cotton or other natural fibers such as linen or bamboo are often more breathable than their synthetic counterparts, such as polyester, fleece, or nylon. Eczema-friendly, breathable sheets like those sold at Aizome help cool air come through the fabric while letting warm air out. This will help prevent your body from overheating, which can worsen itchiness and other eczema symptoms. 

     

    2. Wear Clothing Made of Natural Fibers 

    The logic here is the same as with your bed sheets. The more breathable the fabric, the less likely you are to wake up in a pool of your own sweat. Wear loose-fitting, breathable pajamas made of natural fibers such as cotton, bamboo, or linen. 

     

    3. Keep Your Bedroom Cool

    You may be spotting a theme here. Since heat and sweat are both triggers of eczema and can make itching worse, consider lowering your thermostat at night to keep your body temperature low and reduce sweating in your sleep.

     

    4. Use a Humidifier 

    Dry air can speed up transepidermal water loss, making dry skin and eczema symptoms worse. A humidifier allows you to naturally increase the moisture level in the air of your home and helps your skin to maintain or improve hydration. 

     

    5. Take a Lukewarm Shower or Bath Before Bed  

    Unwind by taking a lukewarm shower or bath before you jump into bed for the evening. Taking a shower at night can be a nice way to start unwinding, provide relief from itching, and help your skin absorb moisture. The National Eczema Association recommends lukewarm baths or showers of five to ten minutes, followed immediately by applying moisturizers to keep skin hydrated. Be sure to use gentle, fragrance-free bath products like Gladskin’s shampoo bar and body wash that won’t irritate your skin. 

     

    6. Use Eczema-Friendly Moisturizers and Products 

    After bathing, pat yourself dry (don’t scrub) and lather on a fragrance-free eczema cream. Moisturizing within three minutes after your shower or bath is ideal. Moisturizers help repair and protect the skin barrier and rehydrate your skin. 
    Image of Gladskin Eczema Cream on a neutral background. Text reads 'Better Science, Better Skin' followed by a 'shop now' button

    Pro tip: If you regularly use a face wash or need to clean away makeup, opt for a face wash for eczema-prone skin and/or makeup remover for eczema-prone skin and try to use them while you’re still in the shower. That way, you don’t scrub away the benefits of your post-bath or shower moisturizer.

     

    7. Ask Your Doctor About Antihistamines

    Antihistamines treat allergies that may be exacerbating your eczema and may help improve your sleep by reducing itch and making you drowsy. While you don’t want to become dependent on taking medication to sleep at night, antihistamines can be a temporary solution when you’re experiencing a severe eczema flare. 

    If you don’t wish to take antihistamines but suspect that your allergies may be contributing to your itching, consider taking steps to reduce the number of allergens in your sleeping space. For example, vacuuming regularly and washing your linens frequently can help reduce dust mites and other common allergens. 

     

    8. Blunt Itching 

    While scratching your eczema may provide momentary relief, it will eventually worsen your symptoms. If you find yourself itching while you’re asleep, make sure that you regularly cut your nails. You may also want to consider wearing cotton gloves during the night to reduce damage to your skin. 

     

    9. Implement Healthy, Consistent Bedtime Habits

    When people talk about sleep and eczema, they tend to focus on managing eczema symptoms. But if you truly want to set yourself up for success, it’s also critical to practice overall healthy sleep habits to maximize your hours of rest. Good bedtime habits include:

    • Going to sleep and waking up around the same time each day.
    • Making your bedroom (especially your bed) a place of sleep and rest.
    • Avoiding the use of electronics for at least one hour before sleep.
    • Limiting caffeine intake at least six hours before bed. 

     

    Get Relief from Itchy Skin at Night with Gladskin

    The itch associated with eczema leaves many people tossing and turning at night. If you’ve tried at-home remedies to fix your sleep with no luck, consider talking with your doctor about your sleep troubles and how to better address your eczema symptoms. 

    When eczema improves, sleep does too. Gladskin’s Eczema Cream is clinically proven to reduce eczema itch and irritation. Plus, it’s gentle and steroid free. Learn more about the science behind Gladskin’s eczema products, view success stories in our eczema gallery, and start your journey toward itch-free sleep today.