Getting Your Zzz’s With Psoriasis
The itching, the burning, the pain–living with psoriasis during the day is difficult, but when your head hits the pillow, it can be a nightmare to catch some zzz’s. Fatigue is already a common symptom of psoriasis, so lack of a good night’s rest can compound this even more. I’ve lived with psoriasis for 15 years, and I’ve had my fair share of restless nights. Fortunately, I found a few techniques to fall asleep easier and stay asleep until morning.
First, it’s important to understand that psoriasis patients have a unique perspective on sleep. I enjoy listening to podcasts while at work, and I recently caught an episode of the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) Psound Bytes podcast, in which Dr. Tina Bhutani, co-director of the Psoriasis and Skin Treatment Center and director of the Dermatology Clinical Research Unit at University of California, San Francisco, discussed the relationship between sleep and psoriasis. She said it is common for psoriasis patients to have disruptive sleep, and we know they sleep less–and not as deeply–as people without psoriasis.
Dr. Bhutani said this might be because an overactive immune system–the underlying cause of psoriasis–often leads to sleep disturbances. And if you’re not sleeping, you’re more prone to immune dysfunction, as sleep is important to reset the immune system.
We also know sleeping less than seven hours each night puts you at greater risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and mental distress–all of which are also conditions known to occur along with psoriasis
Luckily, there are some steps people with psoriasis can take to get some quality sleep. Of course, be sure to talk with your doctor to make sure there aren’t any underlying health issues besides psoriasis that are keeping you from getting enough sleep. If it turns out you’re like me and psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are the culprits, then give these tips a try:
- Make sleep a priority. I often push myself to get everything checked off of my to-do list before heading to bed. However, when I move sleep to the top of my list, it forces me to put my mental and physical health first. There will be time for unfinished tasks another day, and they’ll be easier to complete if I’m well rested.
- Maintain a sleep routine. Whenever possible, go to bed at the same time each night, even on the weekends. After a while, your body will likely get used to the rhythm and learn to stick with the schedule.
- Get your exercise. Those who take time for physical activity tend to sleep better. But beware! Dr. Bhutani said exercise too close to bedtime can actually wake you up and jolt your brain.
- Take a cool shower or oatmeal bath. This might help calm your psoriasis plaques, at least long enough to fall asleep, and can signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and rest.
- Reschedule your medication. If you take steroids or other medications that stimulate you, check with your doctor to see if you can take them earlier in the day to get a better night’s sleep.
- Turn on the tranquility. There are many free apps to surround you with calming sounds or white noise as you fall asleep. Give them a try to see if they help turn your brain off.
- Cut out the caffeine. Avoid coffee and soda before bed, which may stimulate your body and keep you awake.
- In fact, avoid beverages altogether. Drinking before bed can cause you to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
- Too much noise? Try earplugs to help you find your zen. Be careful if you have psoriasis in or around your ears, though, as ear plugs may make it worse.
- Reduce screen time at night. Blue light emitted from phones, tablets, and computer screens can suppress your body’s release of melatonin and keep you from nodding off.
- Take a natural sleep supplement. Speaking of melatonin, check with your doctor to see if taking it as a supplement is safe and might be beneficial for you. It works wonders for me.
- Read a book. Just make sure it isn’t an ebook, because you don’t need the screen time.
Getting seven hours of sleep is important for everyone, but especially for those with psoriasis. If you’re falling short, talk to your doctor to make sure there aren’t additional health concerns besides psoriasis at play. Be sure to prioritize your sleep and work to stay on schedule. Sometimes, simple changes can make a big difference.