Sleep and itching

What happens in the body during sleep? What are the effects of sleep deprivation?
What can we do to get a good night's sleep - especially when we are plagued by itching?

This was the topic of our last patient training course.
Mr. Max Hansen, dermatologist, gave a lecture on this topic and answered the questions.

We humans spend about 1/3 of our lives "asleep", some animals even significantly more.
This state of "going limp" is presumably vital for mammals.

When we sleep, our pulse rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, body temperature and brain activity drop, which means that energy is conserved. In addition, your immune system is regulated, experiences are processed, memories are consolidated and the body regenerates - including DNA damage that can be repaired. Sleep therefore serves to regenerate the body.

Our sleep rhythm is divided into three stages: Initially, in the light sleep phase, the muscles relax and information and new things you have learned are processed.
Then, in the REM sleep phase, the muscles become even more leaxed, but the nervous system is particularly active, abd we dream and process the experienced ofthe day.
Finally, in the deep sleep (non-REM) phase the body switches to standby and the temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate decrease. This phase is crucial for restful sleep.
All three phases alternate throughout the night, althought in the first halff of the night deep sleep predominates. However, we spend around 80 % of our sleep in the light and REM sleep phase.

Patients who suffer from itching notice the altered functions of the skin more clearly during sleep. In the early evening, the body temperature and thus the circulation of blood to the skin are highest, which can trigger or promote itching. Moreover, the skin barrier is more permeable due to the loss of water during the night, which can lead to irritation and also result in itching. The natural nocturnal release of molecular transmitters such as interleukins and prostaglandins can also lead to itching. Psychological components can also exacerbate the physical symptoms which often causes patients with chronic itching to experience stress and/or depression, that manifess itself in distrube sleep patterns creating a vicious circle.

Summary of lecture "Sleep and itching" part 2

Tips for a better night's sleep:

Sleep deprivation upsets the hormone metabolism: an increased level of grehlin stimulates the appetite, which leads to weight gain and an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and ischemic heart disease. A lack of sleep also increases cortisol levels and blood pressure, which can impair the body's immune function. Those who are not well-rested suffer from concentration problems, reduced performance and mood swings during the day.

  • Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, smoking or heavy meals before going to bed.
  • Ensure a constant temperature (18 °C) and a sufficient supply of fresh air.
  • Light sources and noises disturb sleep behaviour, which is especially true for the bluish light eemanated by TVs, cell phones and laptops.
  • Wake up at the same time in the morning so that a regular sleeping-waking rhythm is established.

A variety of techniques can promote relaxation abd - everything that calms you down and helps you to sleep are allowed here, including mental "sedatives, such as mind travel, progressive muscle relaxation or guided meditations.

However, patients who suffer from itching konw that itching is an individual matter and if nothing helps anymore, ask your dermatologist for advice.

Many thanks to Mr. Hansen for this valuable information and to all participants for their keen interest and individual questions.

We are looking forward to the next event.

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