The body prepares for sleep by cooling its core temperature. As heat escapes through the skin, this can result in increased itchiness, driving the desire to scratch.
Sleep & Eczema
July 5, 2023
What happens to our skin while we sleep?
Sleep is incredibly important for our overall health and well-being. It is recommended that adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, in order to allow our bodies to rest and recuperate.
There are two essential types of sleep: non-rapid-eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM). NREM sleep helps our bodies to rest and heal, while REM sleep has a role in maintaining our immune system, and is therefore vital in those with conditions such as atopic dermatitis.
Why is eczema worse at night?
During an AD flare-up, it can be difficult to get enough sleep. There are a few different reasons for this which, when combined, can make quality sleep seem impossible.
The body prepares for sleep by cooling its core temperature. As heat escapes through the skin, this can result in increased itchiness. As well as this, if you have moisturised or used emollients during the day, the effects of these are likely to have worn off by the time you go to bed.
Additionally, during sleep people are more likely to scratch their skin without realising it, which can make AD worse.
Effects of not enough sleep
Our bodies have an internal clock called the ‘circadian rhythm’, which helps regulate our sleeping patterns. When our sleep is disturbed, this circadian rhythm is disrupted, and it becomes harder to achieve good quality, restorative sleep.
Poor sleep or sleep deprivation not only limits the body's crucial rest and repair time but also contributes significantly to stress levels. The connection between eczema and stress is intricate; stress not only triggers eczema flares but also intensifies the sensation of itch and other associated symptoms. For a more in-depth exploration of this topic, visit our dedicated page on stress and eczema.
Habits for sleep
There are many habits you can adopt to aid in a more comfortable night’s sleep. These include adapting our lifestyles and routines before bed, and also ensuring the sleeping environment is suitable.
Good sleep routine
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps our body to maintain its circadian rhythm, which will aid in falling asleep.
If itchiness is particularly bad when trying to get to sleep, techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation can help with stress relief.
Moisturise before bed
Try using moisturisers, ointments or medicated creams before bed, in order to increase their benefits overnight.
Wet wrap therapy
Wrapping a damp cloth over the affected area can help keep the skin hydrated overnight.
Avoid allergens at night and before bed
If you also suffer from allergies, you may know that allergic reactions can worsen your AD symptoms, so try to avoid triggers such as pollen and dust in the evenings before bed.
Avoid harsh fabrics
Fabrics such as wool or polyester can cause irritation. Try to ensure pyjamas and bed linen are 100% cotton - they are gentler on the skin and will also keep your body temperature more stable overnight.
Keeping your fingernails short or wearing gloves at night will make it harder to scratch your skin during sleep.
Avoid feather bedding
Look for synthetic or non-allergenic pillows and duvets.