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Eczema (young people)

Sleep and eczema

Many people talked about the impact of eczema on sleep. They saw rest as an important part of a ‘healthy lifestyle’, in addition to diet and exercise/sport.

Getting enough sleep was something that a lot of people with eczema struggled with. Often they found that their skin became itchy at night time, which made them scratch. This could be painful and cause bleeding, and many would wake up having scratched in their sleep. Sarah says sleep deprivation became a “bad cycle” for her: eczema disturbed her sleep which in turn made the eczema worse and more of a disruption.

Other concerns for sleep and eczema include: having comfy pyjamas and sheets; emollients (or blood, from scratching) sticking to the sheets; overheating; and issues with staying over at someone’s house (like feeling self-conscious about putting on emollients, worrying about the washing powder used on bedding and getting blood on their sheets).
 

Ele talks about some of the problems with sleeping, including overheating during the night and bed linen irritating her skin.

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 2
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I don’t sleep well as it is but when, when it gets bad then even having the duvet, the duvet cover touching it that irritates it and it’s kind of goes but because it gets irritated when I shave my legs and obviously waxing is not an option when eczemas bad, it gets irritated when I shave my legs but if I don’t shave my legs because my legs get prickly then that catches on the duvet and that kind of makes it itch as well. So it’s this massive catch 22 of if I shave my legs then it’s going to itch but if I don’t shave my legs it’s going to itch because they’re hairy. So it does it does keep me awake a lot and a lot of, there have been many times where I've woken up and I’ve just scratched myself till I’ve bled in my sleep and then I wake up because my legs hurt or my skin hurts somewhere. so, but that’s mainly a winter thing luckily but then in summer then it gets itchy and dry because I’m sweating and because it’s so hot and warm, so I sort of sleep with just a sheet in quite early in the year just because it’s not worth having a duvet on during the summer because it gets so itchy, so.
Regularly being unable to fall asleep or waking up during the night could make it difficult to focus at school, in lectures or at work. Shams struggles to concentrate in lessons when he’s sleep deprived and once fell asleep during a mock exam. Lack of sleep made people feel irritable and Ele pointed out that it “take a toll on mental health”.
 

Cat sleeps better now she’s working than when she was at university.

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Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
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I think sort of normally, just get into bed and like fall straight asleep, sort of like tire myself out. Like quite, I’ve got into quite a good routine now, obviously being at work helps cos you get more of a day routine. So, normally I get to bed and sort of straight sort of out, but I think when I was at uni, and you spend so long just like watching TV in bed and things like that, where yeah you sort of spend more time in bed just cos it's better than doing work. So I think yeah that was sort of difficult, and when it's like sort of time to go sleep and you're not really ready to go to sleep, and it's easier just to sit there and sort of itch and scratch, and things like that.

But yeah I think sort of since I started work it's just getting in a better routine. And sort of like, I don’t, I scratch during my sleep but I don’t know so, I just sort of yeah, as soon as my head hits the pillow, sort of out, it's quite nice.
 
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George’s sleep used to be very disrupted and this would make him “grumpy”.

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Age at interview: 17
Sex: Male
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In the last few years it hasn’t affected my sleep as badly so from 13 and 14 onwards because I’m not sure why, it just this hasn’t affected my sleep. I sleep better. When I was younger I used to wake me up all the time and it would be really painful cos I would have, I would have been asleep I would have probably moved around a lot as a young child cos they, I guess they often do. And that can kind of upset the eczema more but you don’t realise how painful it is cos you’re not awake. Then you wake up and it’s really painful. So I remember that a lot and that’s really not nice.
Some people had strategies to help them sleep better. These include: taking sleeping tablets; taking antihistamines, some of which cause drowsiness, and can help with itchiness; moisturising before going to sleep and, for some, using wet wraps; putting on gloves to limit scratching; wearing comfy pyjamas; and keeping the bedroom cool.
 
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Sleep deprivation is a concern for Georgia. She has a number of strategies for winding down at the end of a day.

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Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 4
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I get anxious before I go to sleep because I’m scared I’m going to wake up in the middle of the night and get itchy. And staying asleep is hard because I’ll wake up itchy in the middle of the night. And then I’ll wake up in the morning and I’ll be tired and I’ll be itchy because I’ve not slept properly and because I’m aggravated and irritated. Waking up in the middle of the night is worse, worst I think because I’m sort of semi-asleep and subconsciously I will just scratch or whatever, just to get rid of it. I won’t even be thinking about what I’m doing. My wrists take the full brunt of it. Cos I just, I’m sleeping there like that [gestures to hands under head] and something stupid like my hair will have irritated it and I will just dig at my skin just to get rid of it so I can go back to sleep until I don’t think about it at all. Anything to get a quick relief.

I try and keep my room as cool as possible so I don’t wake up hot and irritated. I try and use light, light bedding, so again I don’t get hot. I’ve been using Atarax antihistamine which has drowsy effects so that helps me sleep a bit better, drops off a bit better. I try to sort of, sort of about an hour and a half before bed I’ll get into my routine of 

Getting into the bath and putting on moisturisers. And calming myself down, making sure I’m not watching TV or on my phone or anything. I try and sort of, I don’t know, just, not meditate but calm down and think about things. And maybe read a book if I can or just potter about and tidy things up and put things away. Just anything to sort of calm me down and slow my processes down, so I’m not irritated or aggravated about anything. Which is what is hard about if I go out, I can’t do those things when I come back. I’m usually just so intent on getting to bed cos I’m tired or I’m still a bit drunk and just want to go to bed. It is a bit difficult.
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