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SLEEP

Getting a better night’s sleep if you’ve got atopic dermatitis

We know that AD can sometimes make it hard for you to get a good night’s sleep. The itchiness can often get worse during the evening – and even keep waking you up throughout the night.1

In fact, it’s well documented that certain sleep disorders can be traced directly back to AD.1

How you sleep at night affects how you feel all day

It’s no surprise that people with skin conditions like AD are more likely to suffer from insomnia.2 And, of course, this can have the knock-on effect of making you feel tired the next day – perhaps resulting in more sick days, accidents at work and trips to the doctor.2

What’s more, in disrupting your sleep cycle, AD can also have a detrimental effect on your mental health and increase your stress levels.3

Do you struggle with stress?

Find out how to manage stress and your AD.

Learn More

If children with AD have their sleep disrupted, they can find it hard to wake up in the morning, experience behavioural problems, mood swings and disruption to their cognitive function.1 Which, in turn, could affect their education at school.

Tired woman with eczema sleeping during the day after waking up and making a hot drink
Person laying awake during nighttime because atopic dermatitis gets itchy at night

Why does atopic dermatitis or eczema get itchy at night?

You’ve probably noticed that your AD flares up when you go to bed and perhaps you’ve wondered whether it’s partly psychological. But the fact is your AD symptoms really can get worse at night, increasing your urge to scratch that itch.1

And there actually are scientific reasons for this:

  • It might well be your body’s circadian rhythms (your natural internal body clock) are causing these night itches, or what medical professionals call 'nocturnal pruritis'4
  • At night, your body temperature and the blood flow to your skin both rise, the production of inflammatory molecules increases, and that of corticosteroids (the hormones preventing inflammation), is reduced4
  • Your skin also loses more water at night, which can make it drier and itchier4
  • At night there are fewer distractions, making the itch the one thing you can end up focussing on4
  • And, if it’s one of those warm, clammy nights, night sweats can affect your AD by also adding to the itch5


Bug

One myth, though, is that bed bugs can cause AD. The fact is, they can’t actually cause it.6 However, bed bugs can make your condition worse by causing ‘hives’, a rash which can produce red itchy lesions on your skin.6,7

What you can do to enjoy a better night’s sleep

Clearly, sleep disturbance caused by AD can affect your quality of life, especially over time. But the good news is, there are things you can do to help manage the itching sensation you may be experiencing at night.

Why not start by discussing a few of these ideas with your doctor:

  • Some people find it useful to use an alcohol-free moisturiser regularly throughout the day and before you go to bed4
  • Taking a lukewarm bath before going to bed may help to soothe your skin and make you feel more relaxed, so you can get to sleep more easily4
  • Your doctor may recommend applying a wet, clean dressing, once you’ve bathed, moisturised, and treated the affected area with your medication.8 Then slip into something nice and loose like your pyjamas or a big baggy t-shirt for a dry second layer.8 These wet wraps can soothe your skin and improve the medication’s effectiveness.8 Always speak to your doctor or dermatologist before using wet wraps like these.
  • Using a humidifier can add moisture to the air in your bedroom4
  • Keeping the room cool may help to prevent night sweats4
  • Some people with AD also find it beneficial to wear natural, soft clothing, for example made from cotton, silk, or merino wool
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before you go to bed may be of help as they can both expand your blood vessels, making the skin warmer and therefore more itchy4
  • Keeping your fingernails trimmed short may be a good idea if you really can’t resist the urge to scratch your skin or if you scratch without realising it when you’re asleep4

Materials can impact your AD

Find the right ones to get a more comfortable night's sleep.

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Man with eczema sleeping well at night against a backdrop of the moon and stars
Doctor

Though these ideas might help, the best way to get rid of your itch (night and day) is to talk to your dermatologist about how to achieve long-term control

Man caring for a child with eczema, reading a bedtime story to her so that the girl may have a better night's sleep

Caring for someone with atopic dermatitis

Caring for a child with AD, no matter the severity, can make life difficult for you too. Because, if your child has a sleepless night, so will you.

In fact, carers mention a child’s restless sleep as second only to the itch itself in impacting negatively on their lives.9 A broken night’s sleep can make children more susceptible to infection and sensitive to pain.9 It can also lead to behavioural and emotional problems as well as affecting a child’s ability to concentrate, which can make life pretty tough for you too.9

But, once again, there are all sorts of things you can do to help improve their night’s sleep:9

  • Keep to the same bedtime routine every evening
  • Keep the room as dark and quiet as possible in the couple of hours before they go to sleep
  • Keep distractions like TVs and video games out of the room
  • Avoid any caffeine after midday
What Causes AD

What causes atopic dermatitis?

Have you ever wondered what causes your AD? It might be time to think about it from a new perspective.

Discover more
Mental Health

Mental health

AD can take a toll on your mental health. Be sure to check-in with yourself – and consider how AD is really making you feel.

Discover more
Stress

Stress

Is AD making you feel stressed? And is that stress making your AD worse? Learn more about that cycle, and find tips to get out of your rut.

Find out more

References

  1. Chang YS et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2018;142:1033–1040.

  2. Alomayri W et al. Cureus 2020;12(12):1–9.

  3. Gupta MA and Gupta AK. Clin Dermatol 2013;31(1):118–126.

  4. Healthline. Itchy Skin at Night? Why It Happens and What You Can Do About It. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/itchy-skin-at-night/. Accessed July 2021.

  5. Murota H and Katayama I. Allergol Int 2017;66:8–13.

  6. Davis S. S Afr Pharm J2020;20(1):12–14.

  7. AAAAI. Allergic Skin Conditions. Available at: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/allergic-skin-conditions/. Accessed July 2021.

  8. National Eczema Association. Bathing, Moisturizing and Wet Wraps. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/bathing-moisturizing-and-wet-wraps/. Accessed July 2021.

  9. National Eczema Association. Advice From a Paediatrician to Help Your Child With Eczema Get Good Sleep. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/helping-your-child-with-eczema-sleep/. Accessed July 2021.