The Reason You Feel Itchy in Bed at Night

The scene: You collapse into your bed after an exhaustingly long day. Finally! But just as you’re about to be out, you feel your skin itching and have the urge to scratch. And maybe scratch some more, even though you weren’t feeling itchy all day. What’s happening?

According to Joshua Zeichner, MD, an associate professor in the department of dermatology and the director of cosmetic and clinical research at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, it turns out that feeling itchy when you lie down in bed at night is more common than you may think. Yet scientists don’t know exactly why, although they do have some suggestions on how to tame it so you can get some sleep.

One theory, though it hasn’t been formally proven, is that feeling itchy when you get in bed to sleep is related to your body’s circadian rhythms, says Brian Kim, MD, co-director at the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Some of your body’s internal chemicals may be more or less plentiful at night, so the feeling of the itch may come through more at night.

Another theory as to why you may feel itchy when you lie down at night—also not scientifically confirmed—is because you’re more focused on how you’re feeling physically, Dr. Zeichner says. During the day, being distracted by work and other tasks may make it easier to suppress the itch sensation.

Itching at night may also just be about how your skin works, says Dr. Zeichner. Skin hydration levels tend to go down in the afternoon, and the drop continues into the evening. “This means the skin is likely more dry at night, contributing to skin barrier dysfunction, dryness, inflammation, and itching,” he says.

To stop the annoying itching and scratching, Dr. Zeichner recommends applying lotions or moisturizers to the skin before bed. If it’s only your feet that are experiencing the itching, some additional reasons may be at play—athlete’s foot being one. (Find out more about why your feet itch at night here.)

Also, if you have allergies or sensitive skin, it may be worthwhile to switch to a hypoallergenic or fragrance-free laundry detergent for washing your clothes and bedding. But if all else fails and you’re still struggling to resolve your PM itchiness, see a dermatologist to help you get to the root of the cause.

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