Recent studies have shown that sleep is critically important to health. If you’re not getting 7-8 hours on most nights, you’re more at risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Worse, some studies have indicated that those who regularly get less sleep than they should are at an increased risk for premature death!
So we get it—we need quality sleep, but what if you’re having a hard time because of your eczema?
How Eczema Messes With Your Sleep
For people with eczema—which is a medical condition that causes rough and inflamed patches of skin that itch and bleed—sleeping is often anything but peaceful. Because of the irritating sensations, sufferers may sleep only in short bursts between itching and scratching.
Often, people don’t even realize what’s happening, even though they may be scratching two to six times each night. They wake up enough to scratch, disturbing deep, REM sleep, but not enough to become fully conscious. They’re scratching may lead to bleeding that they don’t notice until the following morning.
They will notice, however, feeling sleepy the next day, or experiencing brain fog because they didn’t get a good night’s quality sleep. Over time, these regular sleep disturbances can become dangerous to health, increasing risk of all the diseases mentioned above.
Researchers reported on this in 2014. They examined the association between sleep disturbances caused by eczema and their effect on overall health. Examining data from over 34,000 adults, they found that having eczema increased risk of:
- Regular daytime sleepiness
- Regular insomnia
- Number of sick days taken off work
- Number of doctor visits
In other words, if eczema is interfering with your sleep, your health could suffer, and you could end up in the doctor’s office more often.
The other issue is that lack of sleep affects healing. When you sleep, your body goes to work repairing itself. Some research has shown that sleep is even more important to healing than nutrition!
In one study, for example, researchers gave each participant small skin wounds. They then allowed some of them to get a normal night’s sleep, while others they kept sleep deprived. Those who sleep well healed in about 4.2 days, but the sleep-deprived people took five days. Better nutrition had no effect on healing times.
That means that lack of sleep can slow down how quickly your eczema flare-ups heal.
Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep with Eczema
If you have eczema and you’re feeling sleepy, it’s time to make some changes. Your sleep is important, so try these tips to help you get more of it.
- Choose comforting bedding. Your sheets and blankets can irritate your skin, particularly because it’s sensitive. Eczema is tied to allergies in many people, and you may be allergic to some materials. You need bedding that is “friendly” to your skin. Try bamboo if you can—it’s very smooth and also helps draw heat away from your skin so you’re less likely to itch at night. You can also look for options that are specifically made for those with eczema—like DermaSheets, AD RescueWear, and Bella Note.
- Use a humidifier. If you live in a dry climate, that will exacerbate your eczema. Use a humidifier in your bedroom to help hydrate the air. Just be sure to clean it once a week according to the manufacturer’s instructions to reduce risk of microorganisms that could irritate skin and airways.
- Trim your nails and wear gloves. If you’re waking up to bloody, scratched skin, you could be hurting yourself at night. Keep your nails well trimmed and consider wearing soft cotton gloves to bed so you’re less likely to make skin bleed.
- Control allergens. If you have dust mites in your bedding (common), they could trigger itching and scratching. Make sure you wash your bedding at least once a week in hot water to kill off any bugs. Dust and vacuum regularly, too, and keep windows closed in your bedroom to avoid drawing in pollen (if you’re allergic to pollen).
- Think about your nightclothes. Just like your sheets can irritate your skin, your clothing can, too. You may want to sleep without clothes, or make sure you’re wearing materials that are soothing to your skin. Also consider how you wash your clothes—detergents can be irritating, so use gentle ones.
- Bathe and apply moisturizer before bed. Treat your skin right before you turn in. Take a lukewarm (not hot!) shower or bath, then moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Make sure the product you’re using is made with natural and non-irritating ingredients. Our CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion is the perfect moisturizer for those with eczema, as it contains soothing ingredients that tame inflammation along with natural oils to provide lasting moisture. If the eczema is affecting your face, try our Calming Moisture.
- Treat itchy areas. If you’ve got a place that’s driving you nuts, it’s going to be hard to sleep. Try icing it for 5-20 minutes before you go to bed. Place a washcloth between the ice (or bag of frozen peas) and the skin, as you don’t want to get the skin wet. Let it numb the nerves, then moisturize and head to bed. You can also try our Rescue + Relief Spray, which contains aloe, cucumber, water lily, and valerian to help calm and cool skin. This spray also works great anytime that the itching flares up. Store in the refrigerator to keep it cool, then spray on the affected area for soothing comfort.
- Practice regular skin care. Sometimes between flare-ups, you may forget to practice good skin care. That’s a mistake, as sporadic treatment increases risk of itching and scaling. Be disciplined in your approach to gentle cleansing, moisturizing, and careful maintenance. Every day, no matter what!
- Use hydrating masks. Eczemic skin is frequently dry skin, so regular application of moisturizing masks—whether on the face or body—can help. You can use products made for this purpose, or make your own masks at home with ingredients like honey, yogurt, oatmeal, avocados, vitamin E oil, and other natural oils like coconut and jojoba. Mix it up into a paste, apply to skin, and let it sit 10-20 minutes. You can also try an oatmeal bath to relieve itching—add some ground oatmeal to the bath and soak.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. To increase your odds of drifting off to sleep quickly and staying asleep, have a before-bed routine. Shut down the lights, turn off the computers and tablets, and do something relaxing like reading or stretching. Make sure your bedroom is cool and dark, and go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Try a relaxing tea like lavender or chamomile. Give your body and mind a chance to wind down and get ready for a good night’s sleep.
How do you improve sleep with eczema?
Jonathan I. Silvergerg, et al., “Sleep Disturbances in Adults with Eczema are Associated with Impaired Overall health: A U.S. Population-Based Study,” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, January 2015; 135(1):56-66, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15370469.
Ilima Loomis, “Sleep helps wounds heal faster,” Society for Science and the Public, April 2, 2018, https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/sleep-helps-wounds-heal-faster.