Sleep is vital for anyone’s health, but when you have severe eczema, trying to go to bed can be extremely uncomfortable. Without enough sleep, not only can your health and mental well-being worsen, but your eczema can worsen too.
A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology that surveyed nearly 35,000 adults revealed that those with eczema reported greater incidences of sick days, doctor visits, daytime sleeping, and insomnia. Disturbed sleep associated with eczema is also associated with increased risk for psychological disorders and workplace accidents.
A good night’s sleep doesn’t have to elude you when you have severe eczema. Here are some tips you can try to catch more Zzz’s and achieve high-quality sleep.
Adjust your thermostat
Body temperature and eczema are closely related. The hotter you become, the worse your eczema tends to be. Many people wake up in the middle of the night because they become overheated and their eczema-related itching worsens. Here are a couple of methods you can use to keep cool at night:
- Adjust your thermostat before you go to bed. This can include turning off a heater or turning down the temperature anywhere from 3 to 5 degrees.
- Buy an automated temperature system that you can program to decrease the temperature at a certain time every night. This cuts down on the guesswork and memory that’s required to keep your room cool.
By keeping tabs on the temperature levels in your room when you go to sleep, you may be able to reduce the severity of your eczema symptoms. There’s no universal temperature that is best for everyone, though. You may have to try different temperatures to find the one that is the most comfortable for you while you sleep.
Choose soothing linens
The material of the linens you sleep on can also greatly impact your body temperature while you sleep. Try making these adjustments to your linens and bed:
- Purchase protective dust mite covers for your pillows and mattress. Dust mites are a common trigger of eczema for many people. If this is the case for you, covering your mattress and pillows with these covers can reduce the incidence of itching while sleeping.
- Buy duvets, blankets, or quilts made from materials that can be easily washed and dried. Fabrics that are 100 percent cotton, bamboo, or satin are a good place to start. This means you can wash them frequently to remove dust mites or skin debris that might otherwise affect your sleep.
Clean, soft linens made of breathable fabrics are the best bet for people with eczema who wish to sleep better at night.
Reduce the incidence of scratching
Many people unintentionally scratch their eczema patches at night. To reduce the risk of scratching eczema patches and worsening them, keep your nails trimmed and neat. You may also find it helpful to wear soft cotton gloves at night to cover your fingernails and cut down the incidence of itching. Ideally, you can “train” yourself through wearing gloves to stop itching. And once you’re less likely to itch, you can take off the gloves at night.
Apply moisturizer before bed
If you go to sleep with dry skin, you’re likely to wake up several times because of it. About 30 minutes to an hour before you go to bed, apply thick moisturizer cream to the areas affected by eczema. Doing this an hour before you go to bed allows the ointment to better sink into your skin. It’s also a good idea to moisturize right after you get out of a bath or shower while your skin is still damp to “lock in” the moisture.
Practice good sleep “hygiene”
The same habits that help people without eczema sleep more soundly can also apply to those with eczema. Following are a few examples of these sleep habits:
- Stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up time every day. This “trains” your body to go to sleep and stay asleep.
- Engage in relaxation techniques about an hour before going to bed. Examples include meditating, taking a bath, listening to soothing music, or reading a book.
- Avoid eating heavy meals, drinking caffeine, or smoking before going to bed. These habits are all associated with disrupting sleep.
- Turn off all computer and phone screens before bed. The light emitted by electronics can trick your brain into thinking it isn’t time to go to bed yet. By using visual cues like a dark room, you’re more likely to have a better night’s sleep.
These steps are all aimed at reducing feelings of stress and anxiety that can further affect sleep. As an added bonus, by reducing stress, you can also improve your eczema and reduce flare-ups.
If you have symptoms like difficulty concentrating, severe daytime sleepiness, and sudden changes in mood, these are all signals that your eczema is disrupting your sleep. Ideally, you should be sleeping around seven to eight hours per night. If you’re not achieving that amount of sleep, try the tips listed above to reduce your symptoms.
In addition, talk to your doctor about ways you can adjust your medications to improve your sleep — and your skin.