The body is a wonderful thing. Between waking up and going to bed, it allows us to work, eat, exercise, learn, think, and perform many other physical and mental tasks.
So, it should come as no surprise that sleep, and the right amount of sleep, is essential for us to function throughout our daily lives and maintain optimal health.
However, as people with eczema will know, getting quality sleep can be tricky, to say the least. A nagging itch wakes you up during the night because of a flare-up, and you can’t resist the urge to scratch – sound familiar?
This disturbed sleep can impact your ability to treat your eczema effectively the next day and disrupt your regular treatment plan – and there you have it: your vicious circle.
Unfortunately, this vicious circle may continue if your sleep doesn’t improve. But don’t worry; with a few steps added to your daily routine, good sleep doesn’t have to be a far-off dream.
How does eczema affect sleep?
Sleep is essential for a good quality of life, but if you’re having problems catching enough Zs, your eczema could be to blame – here’s why.
In the evening, melatonin is secreted in the brain to prepare your body for sleep. At night, your core body temperature drops; and during this process, the skin on your hands and feet gets warmer, making you feel itchier.
Natural body processes aren’t the only thing bringing on the heat. If your bedding’s too thick, it could be preventing your body from cooling down, and being too warm equals itchiness.
And while it might be a relaxing part of your bedtime routine, taking a hot shower or bath before sleep will both dry out your skin and increase your body temperature, only making the itching worse.
Dry skin can make eczema worse, and it’s likely that by the time you’ve gone to bed, the moisturizer you applied during the day has worn off.
Sweating can also make your skin dry out, so if you’re too warm in your bed and sweating, the dry-out may bring on that dreaded itch.
Itch, scratch, itch, scratch…
Eczema symptoms are never easy to deal with, especially when it comes to itching. Getting caught in the endless spiral of an itch-scratch episode can affect your mood and, you guessed it, disrupt your sleep.
Also, humans tend to scratch in their sleep, meaning people with eczema may unknowingly aggravate an already-sore area of skin and start another itch-scratch cycle.
Why is sleep so important when you have eczema?
There are a few types of eczema, but for people living with any form of this skin condition, sleep is vital for many reasons – here are a few:
Tiredness can affect how well you stick to a consistent and effective treatment plan.
Sleep is essential to regulate our hormones and metabolism to keep mood swings and food cravings at bay.
Healthy skin barrier function
Your skin needs optimum sleep to repair eczema irritations during the night; unfortunately, a lack of sleep can disrupt your skin barrier function.
How can you improve your sleep?
Keep your bedroom cool
Whether it’s by investing in lighter bedding or keeping the window open during the night, cooler temperatures will prevent you from getting too hot or sweating.
A chillier temperature will also prevent dust mites. Dust mites can trigger eczema outbreaks, so wash your bedding weekly and vacuum regularly to keep those pesky little bugs at bay.
The best bedroom temperature for sleep is around 65°F or 18.3°C and may vary from person to person.
Use wet wraps
According to the National Eczema Association’s medical advice, “wet wrap therapy can work wonders to rehydrate and calm the skin and help topical medications work better.”
Moisturize before sleep
To prevent your skin from drying out during the night, moisturize your body about an hour before you go to bed to allow the cream to sink in. Look for a fragrance-free moisturizer with high oil content as it will be more effective at keeping moisture in and irritants out.
Prioritize your bedtime routine
Relieving your eczema symptoms requires healthy sleep, and healthy sleep requires a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine. The body’s circadian rhythm is sensitive to light, diet, and exercise. For optimal sleep, try incorporating the following tips into your night-time routine:
- Read a book or listen to soothing music.
- Blue light before sleep is a big no-no: smartphones, tablets, TVs, and laptops – all these devices can hinder your sleep quality if used within an hour or two of going to bed. If you have a child with eczema, this also means no video games before bedtime!
- Try not to eat heavy meals too close to bedtime and avoid caffeine. Painful as it might sound to coffee fanatics, you need to sip your last cup at least six hours before you plan to go to bed to avoid sleep disturbance. Some people break down caffeine more slowly, so may need to stop drinking coffee even earlier and stick to a maximum of 2-3 cups per day.
Not only can meditation help improve your sleep quality, but it can also reduce stress. To really get the benefits, try meditating every day before bed, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
If you’re new to meditation, our Sidekick eczema program features mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques that will help you take back control of your health. From breathing exercises to daily meditation, your Sidekick can help you master the art of mindfulness and improve your sleep, stress levels, and overall quality of life.
Your Sidekick can also guide you to create healthy daily habits that last, ultimately giving you the power to maintain a regular treatment plan and live with eczema in the most stress-free way possible.
According to UK-based dermatologist Dr. Natasha Harper:
The program is enjoyable to use and full of useful information, and I believe it will be hugely beneficial for patients.
If you’re living with eczema and would like to see what Sidekick can do for you, check out the Atopic Dermatitis program from Sidekick Health today.