Do you experience itchy skin at night? This condition of nighttime itching of the skin can also be described as nocturnal pruritus. The problem can be severe enough to disrupt sleep regularly. Things that cause this problem can range from natural causes to more serious health concerns. In some cases, the itchiness will just last for a short time and go away. However, there are other conditions the problem will only go away with treatment.
Itchy Skin at Night
You may experience this problem at night either while in the bed or generally even when not in bed. Although a wide variety of dermatological conditions and illnesses can cause nighttime itching of the skin, most often the condition is due to abnormally dry skin. If itchy skin is chronic or accompanied by a rash, inflammation or scales, the cause may be an underlying illness and treatment should be sought from a dermatologist.
Causes of itchy skin at night
As we said above, causes of this condition may range from natural issues to more health complications. We will look at both of the cases.
- Natural causes
For most people, natural mechanisms could be behind nighttime itch. Your body’s natural circadian rhythms, or daily cycles, influence skin functions like temperature regulation, fluid balance, and barrier protection. These functions change at night. For example, your body temperature and the blood flow to your skin both increase in the evening, warming your skin. A rise in skin temperature can make you feel itchy.
When itchiness hits during the day, work and other activities distract you from the annoying sensation. At night there are fewer distractions, which can make the itch feel even more intense.
These are small, blood-feeding insects that can infest homes and hotels. Mattresses are a favorite hiding spot for bedbugs and their eggs. At night, the insects bite and feed on their human hosts. Even clean and spotless homes can house bedbugs, since the tiny insects move freely through walls and pipes. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, bedbugs leave behind a skin lesion similar to that of a mosquito bite.
Allergic dermatitis, or contact dermatitis, is caused when a person comes in contact with irritating lotion, soap, chemicals, plants or even jewelry. Besides causing itchy skin at night, the condition can be very unsightly, with bumps, scabs and oozing. Laundry detergent or bleach used to wash sheets and linens can also be the source of the irritant. It is possible for a person to suddenly develop an allergy to a certain chemical, even though it has been used numerous times in the past.
- Health-related causes
Along with your body’s natural circadian rhythms, a number of different health conditions can cause itchy skin to become worse at night. These include:
- skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, and hives
- bugs like scabies, lice, bed bugs, and pinworms
- kidney or liver disease
- iron deficiency anemia
- thyroid problems
- psychological conditions such as stress, depression, and schizophrenia
- restless legs syndrome
- cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma
- nerve disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, shingles, and diabetes
- allergic reactions to substances like chemicals, drugs, foods, or cosmetics
Itching at Night in Bed
People scratch a small itch maybe a dozen times a day unconsciously, but during the night is when they realize how serious it can be. It may be a temporary reaction to a number of mild causes, or it may be a signal an underlying health issue. While you are in your bed there are things that may cause you to cut short your sleep due to repeated itching.
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. Or you may attribute it to your laundry detergent, new body soap, parasites, or even stress. Before you rush to the doctor or pharmacy for some medication, it is important you know what is causing you the itchy skin at night in bed.
- 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.
- Decreased Stimulation
While in bed, 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.
- Cardiac rhythm
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
When skin temperature rises at night, this may stimulate the itch facilitator levels in our skin. When corticosteroid body levels tend to decrease at night, it increases symptoms of an inflammatory skin disorder. Water loss through the skin intensifies at nighttime through sweat and urine hence causing itchy skin at night in bed.
- 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.
Itchy Skin at Night no Rash
Itchy skin is a common symptom and it can be caused by a number of different conditions we have stated above. In most cases, as you scratch your itchy skin while in bed, you may end up with some rashes either du to contact allergies or due to persistent irritation of the skin through scratch. Moreover, even insect bites will leave you either with a bump on the site or a rash. However, there is some itching of the skin at night that is not associated by any rash as a symptom.
An itchy skin with no rash means that the problem is not on the skin but an underlying condition is the one causing the itchiness. This is a clear indication that you should meet your doctor about these symptoms. In fact, many causes of itching require an in-person examination and testing.
In many cases, if you experience a nighttime itching without a rash you should not hesitate to look for assistance. For example, people with severe allergic reactions or kidney disease can have itching without rash along with one or more of those symptoms. This is a condition that is chronic hence treatment should be started immediately.
Itchy Skin at Night with Bumps
Yes, itching of the skin is mostly associated with bumps or a rash. This is usually common where the only the ski is undergoing the suffering without an underlying condition. If you are not feeling sick otherwise, chances are it is nothing to worry about and will clear up on its own. Treating it with over-the-counter hydrocortisone itch relief cream until it goes away may be sufficient. But if it lasts for over two weeks, or goes away and comes back or if your itch cream is not bringing you relief, it’s a good idea to visit your dermatologist as you might need more targeted medication to clear things up.
Common causes of nighttime itchy skin with bumps
- Allergic reactions to personal care products
Your cosmetics, skincare, haircare, and even your laundry detergent are found here. We come into contact with so many potential allergens every day, that there are numerous possibilities for your skin to become irritated. People tend to be allergic to preservatives, and some are more allergenic than others. See if you can find a common thread in the products you use, and if it’s just one thing, stop using it.
Eczema is a general term that’s used to describe many different types of inflammation of the skin, or dermatitis, and can appear anywhere on the body, though it’s most commonly found in the elbow creases or behind the knees. The rash can look very different from person-to-person, but it’s usually intensely itchy, red, and dry.
- Keratosis pilaris
Also called chicken skin or KP, this common skin condition is a variant of eczema. It causes skin cells to cluster around hair follicles, trapping the hair underneath and causing a raised itchy skin at night with bump. KP typically shows up on the backs of the arms and thighs in large patches of rough, raised skin. However, it is not always itchy, but it can be. Depending on the person’s skin tone, these bumps are usually red or brown. It’s chronic, but can be managed with products that include chemical exfoliators like glycolic acid and lactic acid.
- Heat rash
This causes itchy red bumps that may also feel prickly and tingle, and usually happens around the neck or other areas where sweat becomes trapped beneath clogged pores. Heat rash can appear in different forms, sometimes it is red bumps, but sometimes it is tiny clear blisters. The itchy skin at night with rash is common in hot, humid weather, and usually goes away on its own once the skin is cooled down.
- Allergic reactions to food or medicine
Eating a food or medicine you’re allergic to can cause you to break out in hives, an itchy red rash at night that appears as welts. The difference with this type of allergy is that the rash can appear anywhere on your body, versus a skin irritant that causes a rash right where it touched you. Since allergies to foods and medications can be extremely dangerous, it is important to get checked out if you have hives or in some way can connect somethings you ingested to a rash.
How to Get Rid of Itchy Skin at Night
Simple ways for itchy skin relief include wearing loose cotton clothes especially to bed, applying a moisturizer or skin lotion to the skin to keep it hydrated, and avoid excess heat and humidity that causes sweating and aggravates itchiness.
Keep in mind that while many of these home remedies are known to help relieve itching, not all of these have been tested scientifically and in some cases, results may vary greatly.
- Baking Soda
This is the most common home remedy for itchy skin at night as well as skin rashes. Baking soda has a soothing effect due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it acts as a natural acid neutralizer that helps relieve itching.
Add one cup of baking soda to a bathtub filled with cool water. Stir it well to distribute the baking soda thoroughly. Soak in this water for about half an hour. Pat yourself dry instead of rubbing the skin with a towel. Do this once daily.
- Colloidal Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal helps soothe and comfort itchy skin. It contains anti-irritating, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties that provide instant relief from itching.
Add one to two cups of colloidal oatmeal to a bathtub filled with lukewarm water. Soak in this water for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Never use hot water as it may irritate your skin more. You can take an oatmeal bath up to three times a day, depending on the severity of your condition.
- Cool Water
The sensations of both cold and itching travel along the same nerve fibers in the body, so applying cool water on the affected itchy skin at night can bring instant relief from itchiness. There are many ways to use cool water for itchy skin.
People have used lemon to treat itchy skin for ages. Lemon contains citric and acetic acids, which have great antiseptic, anesthetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-irritating properties. Take lemon juice and apply to the affected area using a cotton ball and let it dry for some time before washing it off.
Note: This remedy is not suitable for those who have sensitive skin.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has antiseptic, anti-itching, antifungal and antibacterial properties that help get rid of itching. Add two to three cups of apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bath water. Soak in this water for 15 to 30 minutes. Then pat dry your skin and apply a light moisturizer. Do this daily.
To treat more localized itchy skin at night, apply apple cider vinegar on the affected areas using a cotton ball. Leave it on for half an hour and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Aloe Vera
This contains excellent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Plus, it contains vitamin E that helps keep the skin moisturized and in turn reduces itching.
Extract the gel from one aloe vera leaf. Apply the gel on the affected area. Leave it on for 15 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Follow this simple remedy once daily.
Basil is a useful herb for getting rid of itchy skin. Basil contains a high amount of eugenol, a potent essential oil and topical anesthetic. Plus, it has compounds called camphor and thymol that effectively combat itching.
Add one tablespoon of dried basil leaves to two cups of boiling water. Cover the pan for a few minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and then apply it on the affected area using a cotton cloth. Save the remaining solution in a jar for later use. Repeat the process as often as necessary.
Best Treatment for Itchy Skin at Night
If a condition like a nerve disorder or restless legs syndrome is causing the itch, see your doctor to get it treated. To treat nighttime itch yourself, you can try an over-the-counter or prescription medicine. Some of these medicines relieve just the itch. Others help you sleep.
- Older antihistamines relieve the itch and make you sleepy.
- Newer antihistamines, such as fexofenadine (Allegra) or cetirizine (Zyrtec), are also helpful and may be taken at night or during the day.
- Steroid creams stop the itch at the source.
- Antidepressants like mirtazapine (Remeron) and doxepin (Silenor) have an anti-itch and sedative effect.
Alternative treatments for itchy skin at night
To help you sleep, you could try melatonin, which comes in an over-the-counter supplement. This natural hormone helps regulate sleep. When you take it nightly, it has a sedative effect that can help you sleep through the itch.
If stress aggravates your skin, try techniques like meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation to calm your mind. You can also meet with a therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This program helps reverse some of the harmful thoughts and actions that aggravate your stress.
Things to Avoid
What not to do if you have itchy skin at night
- If your skin itches at night, here are a few triggers to avoid:
- Don’t go to bed in anything itchy. Wear pajamas made from soft, natural fibers, like cotton or silk.
- Keep the temperature in your room cool — around 60 to 65°F. Overheating can make you itch.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. They widen blood vessels and send more blood to warm your skin.
- Don’t use any cosmetics, perfumed creams, scented soaps, or other products that might irritate your skin.
- Don’t scratch! You’ll irritate your skin even more. Keep your fingernails short in case you do feel the urge to scratch at night.
You can try to resolve the itchy skin at night in your home with several remedies and prevent a reoccurrence.
- 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.
- Use Mild Soaps
Use unscented soaps, especially at night. Antibacterial and perfume-infused soaps can draw the moisture from your skin and cause itchiness.
- 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.
- 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 to avoid itchy skin at night.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use Lightweight Fabrics
Wear light cotton sleepwear and use light blankets. As your body temperature rises, so does the intensity of the itchy skin at night.
- Itchy skin at night: http://www.healthline.com/health/itchy-skin-at-night#causes1
- Causes of itchy skin at night: http://www.livestrong.com/article/212650-what-causes-itchy-skin-at-night/
- Itching at night: http://www.doctorshealthpress.com/skin-care-articles/itching-at-night-causes-and-treatments-for-nighttime-itching/
- Itching without a rash: http://www.health.harvard.edu/decision_guide/itching-without-rash