Do you suffer from nighttime itchy skin? Known as nocturnal pruritus, the condition can easily disrupt your sleep cycle, leaving you feeling exhausted. The causes of nighttime itchy skin vary from minor to severe.
9. The Body’s Circadian Rhythms
Everyone has a natural circadian rhythm, also referred to as your cycle. The process regulates your skin’s functions, temperature, barrier protection, and even the fluid balance within your cells.
All of the natural skin changes take place at night. In fact, when the sun sets the blood flow to your skin increases to help warm you. The warming can cause your skin to feel itchy.
During the night, your body also releases more cytokines, which can lead to inflammation. Also, you produce increased corticosteroids, which help to reduce the inflammation. The battle within your skin’s cells can lead to nighttime skin itchiness.
Your skin loses water at night. This is especially true during the dry winter months. Patches of parched skin start to itch.
8. Distractions and the Night
Your skin might always be itchy, but you notice it more at night. During the day you are distracted with work and other activities, so you don’t notice the annoying sensation like you do if you are lying in bed with nothing else on your mind. The itch will feel more intense due to fewer distractions.
7. Physical Problems That Cause Nighttime Itchy Skin
There are numerous health conditions that lead to nighttime itchy skin, such as the following:
- Cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia
- Skin diseases such as psoriasis, hives, and atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- Kidney or liver disease
- Bugs such as lice, pinworms, bed bugs, and scabies
- Restless legs syndrome
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Nerve disorders such as shingles, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis
- Psychological conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and stress
- Thyroid problems
- Allergic reactions to foods, chemicals, drugs, or cosmetics.
6. Poor Sleep Hygiene
A buildup of sweat, dirt, and debris on your skin’s surface can easily lead to nighttime itching. It is imperative that you practice good sleep hygiene to avoid nighttime itching. Consider taking a shower before bed or a warm relaxing bath.
5. Electronic Devices Can Stimulate Skin
The use of electronic devices, like a television, iPad or smartphone, can stimulate the senses and lead to nighttime itching. Your body cannot wind down and instead remains on edge as a reaction to the electronics systems. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before you turn the lights off to fall asleep.
4. Over-the-Counter Medications and Prescriptions
There are treatments for itchy nighttime skin. However, each treatment is geared towards the underlying cause of the condition.
Nerve disorder or restless leg syndrome will require prescription medications to treat. Some over-the-counter medications can bring relief for certain conditions such as the following:
- Antidepressants like doxepin (Silenor) and mirtazapine (Remeron) have strong sedative and anti-itch effects.
- Steroid creams.
- Older antihistamines like chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimerton), hydroxyzine (Vistaril), promethazine (Phenergan), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). However, some of these can make you feel sleepy.
- Newer antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec) or fexofenadine (Allegra).
If you cannot sleep because of nighttime itchy skin, then you can try the supplement melatonin. The natural hormone helps to regulate sleep. It has a sedative-like effect that can help you sleep.
3. Home Remedies
Is stress causing your skin to itch? Try meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or mediation to restore calm to your life and your inflamed skin.
- Meet with a therapist to discuss cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help reverse the emotions that are causing stress.
- Apply a moisturizer directly to your skin. Use an alcohol-free formula.
- Use a cool, moist compress in the area of itchiness.
- Run a humidifier at night.
- Indulge in a warm bath with baking soda or Epsom salts.
2. Avoid Triggers
Certain things can increase your skin’s itchiness. Avoid triggers before bed to get a restful night’s sleep that is free of itch.
- Wear soft pajamas that are made from cotton or silk
- Maintain the temperature at around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Don’t scratch or it will further irritate your skin.
- Avoid the use of alcohol before bed.
- Do not drink caffeine before bed.
- Avoid using cosmetics, scented soaps, or perfumed creams.
1. When to Make an Appointment With Your Doctor
It’s hard to know when to make an appointment with your doctor, but you should consider seeking help if the itch is impacting your sleep.
Here is when to seek help from your doctor:
- The itch does not go away or improve within two weeks.
- You cannot sleep as a result of the intense itching.
- You are experiencing other problems such as fever, rash, weight loss, or weakness.
Nighttime itchy skin can come and go. The first trick to finding relief is to figure out what is causing the itch. Once you have an idea of why your skin is itching, then you can look for ways to soothe your overstimulated skin, relieve the rash, or restore much-needed moisture to the dry cells.