Have you ever been all comfy and settled in bed only to feel a little itch? You give it a rub or scratch, and before you are content, the sensation returns. So you scratch it again and again as the itching grows and becomes a nuisance.
This is nighttime itching. We scratch a small itch maybe a dozen times a day unconsciously, but how serious is it when you develop itching at night? It may be a temporary reaction to a number of mild causes, or it may a signal an underlying health issue. We will uncover nighttime itching remedies and ways to prevent reoccurrences.
What Causes Nighttime Itching?
Pruritus is the itching of the skin. As with many conditions and illnesses, it seems to become worse at night. You may think it is dry skin, especially if it occurs mainly in the cold winter months when the skin becomes more susceptible due to the lack of moisture in the air. Or you may attribute it to your laundry detergent, new body soap, parasites, or even stress. Before you rush to the doctor or pharmacy to grab a bottle of lotion, let’s take a look at what causes itching at night.
1. Bed Clothes and Linen
Your personal items could be causing your nighttime itching due to irritants and even parasites. Changes in your body processes can cause you to develop an allergen to laundry soaps, body soaps, and shampoos, even if you have been using the same brand for years with no negative reactions. It could also be associated with a dust mite allergy. A change in your system can also impact the tolerance of certain components of your jewelry. Unfortunately, you could also have an infestation of bedbugs, fleas, or other insects.
2. Decreased Stimulation
As we sleep, our energy and stimulus levels decrease, which may make us more conscious of issues such as itchiness, even the most mild of the condition. If you suffer from a severe skin condition, it can disturb your sleep cycle to the point of waking you up in the night. Without a proper REM cycle, you can experience changes in mood and physical symptoms.
3. Internal Clock
Your internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm, refers to the biological processes your body goes through over a 24-hour period. These physical, mental, and behavioral changes in the system respond to your day (light) and night (dark) environments. Nocturnal itching episodes may be associated with these changes, although no definite factor has been identified.
- Cytokine and prostaglandin can cause the itching sensation in an unbalanced circadian rhythm as these substances produced by cells affect inflammation outcome.
- Skin temperature rises at night, which may stimulate the itch facilitator levels in our skin.
- Corticosteroid body levels tend to decrease at night, which increases symptoms of an inflammatory skin disorder.
- Water loss through the skin intensifies at nighttime.
- Parasympathetic activity is known as the “rest and digest” portion of our autonomic nervous system. In this state of normal control, your body is in a relaxed condition, and at night, it increases and may stimulate itching.
- Natural pain-relieving catalysts in our system rise in response to the darkness with a damaged circadian rhythm. A lessened pain increases our sense of itchiness.
Aside from severe dry skin, several health disorders and diseases also have symptoms of dry, itchy skin that seem to be exacerbated at night. These conditions are atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, urticaria, lichen simplex chronicus, liver and kidney issues, and blood disorders. There are some sleep pattern disorders that can also cause nocturnal itching.
How to Treat Nighttime Itching?
You can try to resolve the nocturnal itching at home with several remedies and prevent a reoccurrence.
1. Soak at Night
Bathe in the evening to remove the day’s dead skin cells, dirt, and sweat. Keep in mind very hot water can irritate and dry out the skin. Use warm water and spend 15 minutes or less in the shower or bath.
2. Use Mild Soaps
Use unscented soaps, especially at night. Antibacterial and perfume-infused soaps can draw the moisture from your skin and cause itchiness.
3. Moisturize the Skin
Use a moisturizer created for dry skin conditions. Moisturizing after a bath or shower can help prevent itchiness as it replenishes the skin’s moisture.
4. Change the Sheets
Change your sheets frequently. If you cannot alternate bed linen daily, hang your bedding in direct sunlight to remove dust mites and any bacteria and dead skin cells.
5. Flip the Mattress
Use a mattress protector or flip mattress weekly as it may be home to millions of microscopic organisms. Replace the mattress when you can.
6. Call Pest Control
Have a pest control agent inspect for infestations. There may be an issue with bedbugs, body lice, fleas, or scabies mites. You can still feel the effects from these parasites without direct contact as they attach to clothing, linens, and mattresses.
7. Ventilate the Room
Sleep in a cool well-ventilated room. This will reduce body temperature and sweating, which can stimulate itchy dryness. Try keeping the bedroom heat down by opening a window, turning on a fan, or keeping the air conditioner on.
8. Use Lightweight Fabrics
Wear light cotton sleepwear and use light blankets. As your body temperature rises, so does the intensity of the itch.
When to Call a Doctor
If you have tried the aforementioned home remedies for nighttime itching with no relief, you may want to consult your doctor. Depending on the cause of your condition, you may be prescribed antihistamines to diminish itching or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation if itchiness is associated with a skin disorder.
You may need calcineurin inhibitors to suppress your immune system or even antidepressants. These will help in lessening the itch symptoms related to mental stress or psychogenic disorders.
Dry, itchy skin can be triggered by stimuli at night, which can interfere with your resting and sleeping times. There are various mild skin conditions that cause night itchiness as well as several health issues that should be addressed. Home remedies to counteract or prevent itchiness can be undertaken before calling a doctor. The answer may lie in your bedding, personal hygiene items, or even in the air you breathe. If all attempts fail, contact your doctor for guidance as it could be a hidden medical condition or a symptom of a related issue.
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Dr. Chris, “Nighttime Itching Reasons, Causes, Remedies, Treatments,” Health Hype; http://www.healthhype.com/nighttime-itching-reasons-causes-remedies-treatment.html, last accessed February 6, 2017.
Dr. Chris, “How to Relieve Nighttime Itching in Bed”, Health Hype; http://www.healthhype.com/how-to-relieve-nighttime-itching-in-bed.html, last accessed February 6, 2017.
“Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet,” National Institute of General Medical Sciences; https://www.nigms.nih.gov/Education/Pages/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.aspx, last accessed February 6, 2017.