Psoriasis and sleep

30/05/2016 - By Dr. Catherine O'Leary

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I’ve never really suffered with itching except for the summer after my third child was born. I spent night after night either feeding my baby or scratching until I bled. It was the start of a horrible vicious cycle. The more I itched, the less I slept, the less I slept, the worse my skin was. Psoriasis really is the disease that keeps on giving but luckily, the unbearable itchiness only lasted a few months.

Those months of sleep deprivation made me realise how important sleep is to my skin. My psoriasis is always calmer and more manageable when my sleep is good quality. I don’t suppose I am the only one to notice that, so here are my top tips for good quality sleep:

Reduce your caffeine intake from late afternoon onwards. That includes tea, coffee, energy drinks and chocolate. Ideally give up products containing caffeine altogether.  Drink chamomile tea or a milky drink at bedtime instead. Alcohol and nicotine are also stimulants that will disturb your sleep.

Get some exercise during the day. Something outdoors, like walking or cycling so you get some sunlight will be beneficial as natural light is linked to our sleep cycle.

Get into a good routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Get up at your set time, even if you’ve had a bad night. Try not to nap during the day. Sadly our bodies do best on monotonous, boring routine.

Don’t stress about not sleeping. If you are lying awake in bed in the wee small hours, don’t panic about how tired you will be or how your skin will suffer.  Easier said than done I know, but instead of worrying, use the time to do some mindfulness. That way you’ll be using the time to do your body some good even if you aren’t asleep. Try a mindful minute or download a podcast.

Turn your clock to face the wall. Don’t be tempted to check what time it is. It doesn’t matter and will only stress you out or wake you up. Don’t cheat and look at your phone or your watch. You don’t need to know what time it is and while we’re at it, you probably don’t need your phone next to your bed either.

Ask yourself whether you need less sleep than you used to. Our sleep requirements often reduce as we get older but we still expect to need the nine hours we had when we were teenagers. Whatever your bedtime was 20 years ago, you can bet it is too early now.

Remember, you are probably getting more sleep than you realise. Research in sleep laboratories show that individuals who claim not to sleep, do get some shut eye and much more than they estimate.

Make your bedroom relaxing and inviting. My favourite of all, are clean sheets, line dried (they smell so good after a day in the sun) and preferably put on the bed by someone else. I may not have a great night’s sleep but at least I go to bed happy.

Sweet dreams.