Psoriasis-Insomnia Connection and How to Get The Sleep You Need

I have blurred memories of my children as infants who would sleep at all different hours of the day and night. Fortunately, the kids eventually grew out of those early days of mixing up sleep times, but unlike them, I’ve struggled much of my life to develop and maintain a regular sleep schedule.

I tell people I’m a night owl, but in actuality, I feel frustrated when I’m lying awake in bed gripped by insomnia.

Many of those times, it’s my unrelenting skin irritation and itchiness that keep me from getting a good night’s sleep. Skin flakes scattered on my pillow and bedsheet confirm I’ve been scratching at night. Waking up in the morning for work feels that much harder when my skin is itchy and I don’t feel rested.

Insomnia and Psoriasis: A Vicious Cycle

Like most people, I don’t feel as productive or focused after a night of broken sleep. Making things even worse is that lack of sleep is a trigger for my psoriasis and eczema. I feel trapped in that vicious cycle of wakefulness that sparks skin inflammation, and vice versa.

In doing a bit of reading online I found that I’m not alone in the battle for a good night’s sleep, and that more than 85 percent of people with psoriasis struggle with this issue.

Techniques to Address the Itch

Over the years I’ve developed a few ways to reduce my level of itchiness and improve my sleep.

Using effective psoriasis treatments naturally reduces psoriatic symptoms like itch. For stubborn problems like my scalp psoriasis, my dermatologist gave me a topical treatment to apply after showering, which eased the itch and allowed me to rest. Other treatments, like phototherapy and wet-wrap therapy, have also helped with itchy flares on my skin from psoriasis and eczema.

As much as I love a long, hot shower in the winter, I’ve learned to take shorter showers with lukewarm water. Moisturizing immediately after toweling off keeps my skin from drying out. I’ll reapply moisturizers a couple of times during the day as needed.

Longer fingernails do more damage when I scratch my skin, so I routinely cut and file my nails so no sharp edges remain. At night, wearing cotton gloves also reduces the impact my nails might have on my skin while I sleep.

My doctors have prescribed oral antihistamines to both induce sleep and reduce itch. Over the years, I’ve tried a few different choices. It took trial and error to find the one that works best on itch while not making me too groggy to drive or work the next morning.

Establishing Good Sleep Habits

Besides reducing itch, I’ve developed other habits to improve my sleep quality. One major sleep disturbance for me is stress. If I’m experiencing a lot of conflict at home or at work, am behind on deadlines, worrying about my health, or making a major life decision, then my mind won’t rest.

More Advice From Experts

Be sure to discuss any problematic sleep patterns with your healthcare provider, because there could be a medical issue involved.

For more tips on sleeping better with psoriasis, sign up to receive the Healthy Sleep Guide from the National Psoriasis Foundation.

You can read more about my experiences in my blog for ishonest and on my website.

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