All parents know that kids get grouchy when they are tired and have not gotten a full night of good quality, sound sleep. Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of sleep in the development of a child’s brain.
Compared to 20-30% of all kids having sleep disturbances. In some cases, repeated sleep disruption can cause a child to be misdiagnosed with a behavioral problem or learning disability. Eczema-related sleep disruption is second only to itch in having the most negative impact on the quality of their lives. Not getting enough (good quality) sleep can make children dealing with an eczema flare-up more susceptible to infection and more sensitive to pain. It can impair their cognitive abilities, disrupt their behavior and lead to attentional and emotional problems and add a debilitating level of stress.
The obvious culprit in a child’s eczema related sleep disturbances is in fact from itchiness and overall discomfort. But another connection to sleep disturbances can be the anxiety associated with the end of day routine when a child’s eczema is being treated and they are prepared for bed. After a full day of childhood activities where the child has almost forgotten about how itchy their eczema is, the focus on the end of day eczema treatment and bedtime routine can almost serve as a reminder that they have an itchy eczema flare-up and trigger the itch-scratch cycle. This, in turn, can frequently trigger natural anxiety to build up in the child’s mind about their itchiness which in turn manifests and increases a child’s stress level.
Work with a dermatologist to get your child’s eczema under control. Sleep loss occurs when eczema flares and getting your child’s eczema under control can help your child sleep. A dermatologist can also help develop a treatment plan that addresses sleep loss. Here are some ideas for helping itchy babies and children to settle them and get a better night’s sleep:
Tip: It is amazing how quickly a child adapts to structure and routine. Avoid routines that can’t continue in the long run. If your child needs to fall asleep on your breast while nursing, you’re going to have to do that each time they wake up and can’t fall asleep on their own. Keep the bedroom quiet and dark, with only a dim indirect nightlight if needed. Keep pets out of the bedroom, especially the bed. It is not unusual for a child to wake during the night. If you hear them stirring after they have been asleep, avoid going back into the room. More times than not they will fall back to sleep in a few minutes.
Tip: Check with your health care professional before trying any of these ideas but natural and holistic bath water additives like Apple Cider Vinegar, colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salt, garlic, and coconut oil can help soothe the itch and help heal the skin. There are other, more aggressive bath treatments like bleach baths but these should only be used under strict guidance from a dermatologist.
Tip: Applying moisturizer before their bedtime stories will allow it time to soak in and any stinging time to subside. Cover the moisturizer with special eczema sleepwear like Soothems baby eczema pajamas. This is especially important if you are using a prescription product or any strength of hydrocortisone cream on the damaged skin.
Tip: If you are concerned about whether your eczema child is scratching or truly distressed, you might consider getting a video baby monitor or using your smartphone or tablet with a baby monitor app (if you’re using a phone remember to mute the ring volume!). This allows you the peace of mind from checking that they are okay without needing to disturb them.
When a child with eczema doesn’t get a good night’s sleep, 99% of the time neither does the parent. It is no secret no sleep leads to a loss of patience and increases household tension. If you can establish a good bedtime routine and encourage good sleep habits early, not only will you be giving your eczema child the best possible start, but the whole family will benefit from getting enough sleep.
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