Itchy skin at night, called nocturnal itching, can be severe enough to interfere with sleep regularly. Causes can range from natural causes to more severe health problems.
For most people, natural mechanisms may lie behind night itching. The body’s natural circadian rhythms, or daily cycles, affect skin functions such as temperature regulation, fluid balance, and barrier protection.
Blood flow to your skin and body temperature increase at night, warming your skin. An increase in skin temperature can make you feel itchy.
The body’s release of certain substances also varies according to the time of day. You release more cytokines at night, which increases inflammation. Meanwhile, the production of corticosteroids – hormones that reduce inflammation – decreases.
You may have noticed in the dry winter months itchy dry skin.
When the itching hits during the day, work and other activities distract you from the annoying feeling.
Along with the body’s natural circadian rhythms, several different health conditions can cause itchy skin to worsen at night. These include:
- atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, and hives
- insects such as scabies, lice, bedbugs, and pinworms
- kidney or liver disease
- iron-deficiency anemia
- thyroid problems
- psychological conditions such as stress and depression
- restless legs syndrome
- nerve diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, shingles, and diabetes
- allergic reactions to substances such as chemicals, medicines, foods, or cosmetics
Treatment of itchy skin at night
Here are a few medications and home remedies to relieve itchy skin at night.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications
If a condition such as a nerve disease or restless legs syndrome causes the itching, see your doctor get it treated.
- Newer antihistamines, such as Allegra or Zyrtec, are also helpful and can be taken at night.
- Steroid creams stop the itching at the source.
- Antidepressants such as mirtazapine (Remeron) and doxepine (Silenor) have an antipruritic and sedative effect.
To help you sleep, try melatonin. This natural hormone helps regulate sleep. When you take it at night, it has a calming effect that can help you sleep through the itching.
Home remedies and lifestyle changes
Try meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation to calm the mind if stress worsens your skin. You can also meet a therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
You can also try these home remedies:
- Apply a lubricating, non-alcoholic moisturizer such as CeraVe, Cetaphil, Vanicream, or Eucerin to your skin during the day and before bedtime.
- Apply cool, wet compresses to relieve itching.
- Have a bath with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda.
- A humidifier will add moisture to the air in the bedroom while you sleep.