Eczema, aka dermatitis, is the skin condition that causes itchy, red or purple inflamed, swollen patches of skin.
Those dealing with eczema may already know it loves to flare up at night, keeping you awake, itchy, and uncomfy AF.
It’s possible eczema symptoms feel worse at night because:
- Your body’s sleep and wake cycles makes your temperature drop at night, making skin feel itchy.
- Daily moisturizer has worn off by bedtime.
- You’re more likely to scratch in your sleep, leading to more itchiness.
- Nighttime clothing and the sheets you sleep in can also sometimes cause itchiness thanks to friction against your skin.
It’s pretty common for eczema to wreck sleep — research shows about 33 to 87 percent of adults with eczema deal with disrupted Zzz’s in studies.
Researchers aren’t super sure what causes eczema, but genetics and environmental triggers might be to blame.
When eczema makes its grand entrance, the affected patches of skin become red and sore, which leads to itching. On top of that, inflammation from eczema increases blood flow, which, you guessed it, also adds to the itch.
If the skin barrier is broken to due inflammation and scratching, this can lead to transepidermal water loss (TWL), which contributes to the itch-scratch cycle as well.
Here are some ideas for preventing nighttime eczema flares at night:
- Moisturize like crazy before bed. Oil-based moisturizers or medicated creams before bed may help. Your doc can offer stronger versions of these.
- Bathe before bed. Bathing on the reg can help keep skin hydrated. But remember to slap on that moisturizer within 3 minutes after your bath to lock in hydration. Medicated baths and oatmeal baths may be especially helpful.
- Try wet wrap therapy. Wrapping a damp cloth around the affected areas after you moisturize (and keeping the wrap on overnight) may help keep your skin hydrated while you snooze.
- Ditch harsh fabrics. Now’s the time to toss (ahem, recycle) those rough blankets, sheets, or polyester PJs. These can irritate your skin. Go for stuff made from 100 percent cotton, it’s way gentler on your skin.
- Escape allergens before bed. If allergens like pet dander or pollen are in the air, they may make eczema worse for those with allergies. Try to stay away from these before bed if you can.
- Pop an antihistamine. OK, so antihistamines may not lessen itching. But, they just may get you drowsy, helping you sleep through that itch. Just talk with your doc before trying any meds.
- Go for melatonin. A 2016 study suggests that melatonin (a popular sleep supplement) can help kiddos with eczema get to sleep faster.
- Slide gloves on before bed. Wearing gloves (or socks) make it tougher to scratch yourself in your sleep. Keeping your nails shorter can help too!
- Keep it cool. Don’t let your bedroom be a swampy, hot nightmare. Sweating and even just feeling hot can make you feel itchier. Think cool linens and a nice breeze with a fan.
- Get into a good sleep routine. Going to sleep at the same time every night and penciling in time for a chill activity can encourage healthy sleep patterns. Think meditation, stretching, or reading.
Avoid these triggers before you snooze
- cosmetics, soaps, lotions with dyes or fragrances
- mold (well, duh)
- cigarette smoke
- household cleaners
- dust mites
- nickel and other metals
- high-stress situations (We know, we know. Do your best!)
Bedtime itching can make a baby uncomfy too (which ruins everyone’s sleep). Eczema can pop up during infancy, typically as a rash on the face and scalp.
Thankfully symptoms usually go away as your bébé grows up — roughly 95 percent of children don’t have symptoms after 20 years.
While the itching persists, eczema treatments for kids and babies are often the same as adults. But, there are extra ways to help babies with eczema be more comfortable throughout the night.
Ways to lessen eczema symptoms in babies include:
- Learn and avoid their triggers.
- Keep a daily routine of bathing and moisturizing.
- Be careful with antibacterial ointments (those with neomycin or bacitracin may aggravate the skin).
- Stay away from baby wipes that have isothiazolinones, an ingredient that may trigger skin reactions.
- Ditch baby shampoos and other items that contain cocomidopropyl betaine (this can irritate eczema).
Eczema is common, it isn’t contagious, and it can flare up at night.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure and the itching can hella disturb your sleep. The good news is there are treatments to help stop eczema itching at night.
Calming oatmeal baths, moisturizing before bed, taking eczema meds, avoiding triggers, and making your bedroom as cool and comfortable as possible may help.