Do you experience severe itching in your skin just before hitting your bed? Nocturnal pruritus, commonly known as itchy skin at night, can disrupt your healthy sleep routine.
Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, says, “Pruritus, always is a symptom of perhaps something as trivial as a mosquito bite or sometimes even grave metabolic issues. Severe and recurrent itching should be examined and treated at the earliest.”
Scroll down to know why your skin itches at night, and how you can successfully tackle and prevent it with simple yet effective home remedies and Ayurvedic treatments.
Why Does Your Skin Become Itchier At Night?
Many people experience continuous itching in their lifetimes across the world. This skin condition is known as chronic pruritus. More than 90% of the individuals afflicted with chronic pruritus also suffer from persistent itching during night time, which is also known as nocturnal pruritus .
In severe cases, people afflicted with this condition experience disturbed sleep which makes it impossible to rest and rejuvenate. With passing time, this disturbed sleeping pattern may adversely affect the overall health, performance at workplace, and emotional health of an individual.
Itching may also damage your skin and increase your chances of infection. The exact cause is not known, however; several environmental and genetic factors may be responsible .
A few reasons for worsening of itching symptoms at night include:
1. Many individuals tend to scratch more while sleeping, which makes the existing condition worse.
2. If an afflicted individual has applied moisturizer in the day time, the conditioning and soothing effects fade away by night time.
3. Due to lower body temperature in the night (occurring due to sleeping and waking cycles), the itching sensation may increase at night.
4. A few individuals usually wake up from their sleep at night without knowing, and scratch the affected skin without remembering. This involuntarily scratching aggravates the skin further, which leads to disturbed sleep.
In less than a second, the human brain receives the “itching” signal! The receptors in the affected area send a stimulus via the fibers located in the skin to your spinal cord, and then to your brain.
Can Itchy Skin Be A Sign Of Something Serious?
Itchy skin generally occurs due to natural, common causes. However, if the itching is persistent and doesn’t fade away with time, then it may be an indication of a serious ailment like:
- Iron deficiency
- Specific cancers such as Hodgkin’s disease
- Thyroid problems
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
A few people begin to experience itching after undergoing medical treatments for the above-mentioned ailments. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and kidney dialysis may cause itching sensation in the patients.
What Causes Itchy Skin At Night ?
A. Natural Causes
A few natural causes may cause itching in skin. These include:
1. Circadian Rhythm
The human body modulates chemicals and hormones with the help of a circadian rhythm. It is defined as the natural cycle of the human body. In a few cases, it may cause some changes or fluctuations in the body which may then lead to an aggravated itching sensation in the night. These fluctuations include:
- High water loss from your skin due to sweating
- Changes in prostaglandin (PG) hormone, which is primarily responsible for dilating and widening your blood vessels
- Lower levels of corticosteroid, which is primarily responsible for minimizing inflammation
- Higher levels of cytokine molecules, which help in cellular movement and communication during immune activity. The high levels may stimulate immune response in the cells leading to inflammation.
- Increase in body temperature
- Higher blood flow within the skin cells
It is also popularly known as hell’s itch . Sunburn causes painful, persistent itching due to over exposure to the harmful UV A and B rays. It may also cause small red bumps to appear on the exposed part of your skin.
B. Health Related Causes
Several health conditions and skin diseases may cause severe itching at night. These include:
1. Skin Diseases
This skin condition leads to the formation of patches in your skin which become inflamed and swell up. Persistent scratching in the affected area may result in dry, rough, cracked, and red skin.
It is a non-contagious skin rash which is initiated due to a specific allergen. This results in inflammation and accumulation of fluid beneath your skin, which gives the affected skin a itchy, raised, red rash.
The allergic stimulants may include specific insect bites, infections, medications, foods, and persistent scratching. A few other causes of allergic reactions which lead to persistent itching may include:
- Cosmetic and makeup products
An allergic reaction occurs when specific cells in your body feel threatened and excrete a molecule in retaliation known as histamine. This molecule then induces inflammation in the affected area as a defence mechanism.
The skin condition appears normally on the knees and elbows. The signs include red, raised, inflamed plaques on your skin. An overactive cellular repair and reproduction cycle leads to the mass accumulation of skin cells in the affected area, which looks similar to scales that crack and bleed.
The small mites appear on infested furniture, bedding, or clothing and they usually dig deep into the infected skin to lay their eggs. The mites usually appear when there is skin to skin contact. Hence, it is important to ensure that everyone in your family is treated accordingly to avoid further infestation.
Infection by mites causes red, itchy rashes on the skin, which requires medical attention and treatment.
They are wingless human parasites which infect your scalp and hair by laying their eggs on the hair shafts, moving around your scalp, and deriving its nutrients from your blood. They also cause red, itchy rashes to appear on your scalp.
These are wingless, tiny insects which infect and feed upon warm-blooded living beings including humans. They usually infest clothing, mattresses, and sofas. They also cause severe itching at night.
These are parasitic worms that infest and reside in your colon, which move in and around the anus in the night time to lay their eggs. Hence, it leads to severe itching in the night time during your sleep.
3. Liver Or Kidney Disease
People who have chronic liver ailment or last stage of renal dysfunction experience persistent itching.
4. Thyroid Problems
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are two major thyroid disorders which are known to cause continuous itching in the afflicted individuals.
It is important to consult your doctor if the persistent itching is followed by an enlarged thyroid, puffy eyes, heightened pulse, and sudden weight loss (symptoms of hyperthyroidism), or dry skin, constipation, fatigue, and weight gain (symptoms of hypothyroidism).
5. Psychological Conditions
Chronic stress, depression, anxiety, or overwhelming emotions may cause you itchy skin without any physical stimulant, which prompts you to scratch involuntarily.
6. Restless Leg Syndrome
Women are highly susceptible to suffer from this neurological disorder which causes an itchy skin in their legs. The usual symptoms tend to worsen when trying to sleep or resting at night.
Anemia due to iron deficiency may also cause this disorder. When you have low levels of iron in your body, then your body fails to produce any healthy red blood cells. The general symptoms may include tingling sensation in the legs, resembling itching, shortness of breath, or fatigue.
Chronic itching may also be an early indication of some types of cancer. If you have been experiencing sudden and persistent itching for no physical reason, then it is important to consult a doctor immediately.
However, this is a rare cause and is most likely to affect those who have sudden weight loss, chills, fevers, and night sweats.
8. Nerve Disorders
Nerves which sense the itching sensation can sometimes malfunction, which may lead to a phantom itch skin which has no external trigger. This disorder may happen due to an existing, underlying condition, such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
9. Menopause & Pregnancy
Any change or fluctuation in the hormonal level of estrogen may cause flushed skin, itchy skin or extreme dryness. A few menopausal women experience the sensation as if many ants are crawling beneath their skin.
How Can You Stop Itching At Night?
1. Home Remedies
It is a popular essential oil which is extracted from the mint leaves. For many centuries, menthol has been commonly used to alleviate itching and pain due to its soothing and cooling properties.
Before applying it to your skin, always remember to dilute the essential oil in a suitable carrier oil such as olive or sesame oil.
B. Cooling The Skin
An efficient way to treat itchy skin is to apply a wet, cold wash cloth onto the affected area for 10-15 minutes. It is commonly recommended by dermatologists. Cooling helps in minimizing inflammation in the skin which may cause itching. Another alternative is to store moisturizing lotions and creams in the fridge to keep them cool.
C. Wet Wrap Therapy
It includes the application of water-soaked cotton gauzes in and around the affected areas of your skin. The wet wraps help in soothing and rehydrating the affected skin as well as provide protection from scratching. This technique is extremely beneficial for toddlers and children.
The treatment also benefits the affected skin by absorbing ointments and medications, like topical steroids. You can gently pat rub the prescribed medication on the affected area followed by wet wrap.
D. Colloidal Oatmeal
It is a finely ground form of oatmeal which gets easily dissolved in water. It helps in relieving dryness and itching . The solvent helps in forming a physical barrier on the skin’s surface, that aids in sealing the moisture. Also renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, colloidal oatmeal helps in minimizing skin irritation.
E. Apple Cider Vinegar
It has acetic acid as one of its primary constituents, that is known as a natural antiseptic and wound disinfectant. It is highly effective in treating an itchy scalp.
You can dilute the cider in plain water in equal proportions, and apply it onto the affected area followed by washing it off with lukewarm water.
Vedix Tip: If you have any open wounds, then using vinegar may cause a severe burning sensation in the affected area. Avoid this remedy if you have bleeding or cracked skin.
2. Natural Treatments
There are many natural remedies and treatments which can help you to deal with itchy skin at night without any ointments and medications. These simple natural remedies include:
- Bathing in lukewarm or cool water at night by using colloidal oatmeal, baking soda, scent and chemical free soaps or moisturizing soaps.
- Applying alcohol and oil-free moisturizers, preferably glycerine based at night like CeraVe, Eucerin or Cetaphil.
- Using natural creams and ointments containing aloe vera and Vitamin E.
- Using a humidifier in your bedroom to avoid extreme dryness.
- Applying cool compress onto the affected area such as wet washcloth or ice pack at night.
- Wearing soft, cotton mittens or gloves to prevent scratching at night.
- Listening to meditation tapes while sleeping to relax your mind.
- Regularly trimming your nails to avoid any damage to your skin while scratching.
- Thoroughly cleaning and checking your bedroom for any insect infestation, such as biting ants, fleas, or bed bugs.
- Calmly sipping a caffeine-free drink such as peppermint or chamomile tea at night.
- Sprinkling a few drops of a relaxing and soothing essential oil on your pillow before sleeping at night.
3. Ayurvedic Remedies
The potent herb contains active phytochemicals like catechins and tannins. All these molecules are extremely beneficial and therapeutic in nature. The Ayurvedic herb effectively treats skin conditions like psoriasis which leads to itchy skin. It also helps in minimizing inflammation of the skin.
Khadira  plays a key role in various Ayurvedic formulations like khadirarishta and khadiradi gutika which can be taken after consultation with your Ayurvedic doctor.
In the west, it is popularly known as the Indian barberry. The potent herb acts on the circulatory and digestive organs of the human body. It is well-known for its bitter tonic and fever-inducing effects. Taking a bath along with Daruharidra is prescribed for people who have persistent itching due to skin disorders like psoriasis.
You can also use it as a decoction, paste or medicated ghee based primarily on your prakriti, as suggested by your Ayurvedic doctor.
It works effectively on the circulatory and respiratory organs of the human body. It has been popularly used in Ayurveda medicine for its astringent, soothing, and antiseptic properties. It provides quick relief from itching arising from eczema and chickenpox.
You may be advised to ingest neem as an infusion, decoction, or medicated ghee by an Ayurvedic doctor.
The potent herb is well-known for its antibacterial and anthelmintic properties. It also helps in purifying the blood. It helps in treating itchy skin arising from ringworm and allergies.
Your doctor may advise you to use it as decoction, milk-based decoction or applying externally.
The Ayurvedic herb is well-known for its diuretic and astringent properties. It is popularly used in treating itchy skin from skin disorders. It is also a powerful blood purifier which removes excess ama (toxins) from your body.
Your ayurvedic doctor may advise you to take it in the form of decoction or powder.
4. Other Medications
There are several prescription and over-the-counter medications available for treating and preventing itchy skin from reappearing. The OTC medications which are used for itchy skin at night include:
A. Supplements that prolong deep sleep and drowsiness like melatonin which is a hormone produced only during bedtime.
B. Allergy medications that may alleviate inflammation such as cetirizine, fexofenadine, and diphenhydramine.
C. Corticosteroid creams like hydrocortisone cream which aids in minimizing inflammation.
Prescription-based medications and treatments include:
- Hormone replacement therapy, especially estrogen-based formulations that help in minimizing itching and dry skin.
- Kappa opioid medicines that aid in reducing itching and treating insomnia.
- Pregabalin and gabapentin help in minimizing anxiety and treating insomnia.
- Phytotherapy uses the UV B rays to minimize the immune response of the skin and reduce inflammation.
- Immunosuppressants like calcineurin inhibitors (Neoral, Hecoria and Gengraf) may minimize inflammation.
- Antidepressants like mirtazapine and doxepin can aid in minimizing itching due to anxiety and depression.
- Corticosteroid pills or creams help in minimizing itching resulting from inflamed skin.
How To Prevent Itchy Skin At Night?
You can prevent itchy skin at night by following simple yet effective tips which include:
- Drinking adequate water to stay hydrated which helps in reducing dryness.
- Avoiding warm showers and baths as well as saunas at night to prevent moisture loss and high body temperature.
- Wearing soft and natural fabrics like cotton and muslin which doesn’t cause any skin aggravation.
- Avoiding scented, alcohol-based cosmetics, cleansing, or facial treatments at night.
- Avoiding chemicals like alcohol and caffeine intake which causes heightened blood flow in your skin.
- Maintaining a cool temperature in your bedroom and ensuring proper air ventilation.
- Changing and cleaning your bedsheets and pillowcases weekly.
- Treating your pets with vet-prescribed medications for ringworms, tics, fleas.
Dos And Don’ts Of Dealing With Itchy Skin At Night
1. Wear Soft & Natural Fabrics
Wear soft, natural fabrics only which are gentle to your skin, especially during bedtime. You can try muslin, silk, or organic cotton.
2. Regulate Temperature
As mentioned earlier, high body temperature may worsen your itching sensation. Regulate the room temperature by using a humidifier or thermostat to avoid skin irritation.
3. Use Natural & Mild Skincare Products
Try and avoid using perfumes, scented soaps, cosmetics and makeup products which makes your skin itch at night. Always stick to natural, mild and herbal skincare products which are designed for your skin type and specific concerns.
4. Always Trim Your Fingernails
A slight itching sensation may urge you to scratch the affected region. By keeping your fingernails trimmed and short, you can protect your skin from harm.
1. Resist the urge to scratch by distracting your mind. Relax and rest while listening to meditation tapes or audio books.
2. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks before bedtime. They dilate and widen your blood vessels which results in blood flow to your skin.
3. Don’t be stressed or anxious at night.
4. Don’t take long, hot baths or showers before bedtime as it causes extreme dryness.
When To Consult A Doctor?
Chronic itching at night with other accompanying symptoms should be immediately brought to a doctor’s notice, especially when the itching becomes a persistent issue and wreaks havoc on your daily schedule.
Here are a few reasons when you must immediately consult a doctor for treatment:
- Dry skin along with sudden weight loss, fatigue, fever and chills
- Itchiness or dry skin which impacts your whole body
- Dry skin which disrupts your sleeping cycle and quality
- Dry and itchy skin at night which doesn’t alleviate even after lifestyle changes or home remedies
- Unexplained, sudden itchy skin which prolongs for more than a fortnight
The Last Word
Persistent itching at night can affect your overall quality of life. It disrupts your sleeping cycle, lowering your mental alertness and focus, as well as urging you to scratch until your skin cracks and begins to bleed. It is important to seek medical or Ayurvedic help when you fail to understand the reason behind your constant urge to itch before bedtime. With the help of natural, mild and herbal skincare products, preventive steps, and a healthy lifestyle, you can overcome the persistent challenge of itching at night.
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