Welcoming a baby into the world is an incredible experience, but it often comes with a rollercoaster of challenges for new parents. One common challenge: eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. This common skin condition affects an estimated 16.5% of children in the United States, and 60% of people with eczema develop it within their first year of life , .
Eczema itch makes it difficult for babies and young children–and their parents and caregivers–to get a good night’s sleep. Practicing healthy sleep hygiene and managing eczema symptoms can go a long way towards ensuring you and your little one get the rest you need.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. It often appears as discolored patches that may become crusty or ooze when scratched. Like adult eczema, the exact cause of baby eczema is not fully understood, though we know that children who have a family history of eczema, asthma, or seasonal allergies–known as the atopic triad–are more likely to develop eczema. Environmental factors and an imbalance in your little one’s skin microbiome and/or gut microbiome may also play a role in the development of eczema.
Eczema and Sleep Disturbance in Infants and Babies
For people with eczema, itchiness often increases during nighttime due to natural changes in circadian rhythm, the mechanism in the body that switches us over to sleep mode. Higher body temperature, increased transepidermal water loss (water lost through the skin), and hormonal and immune system shifts can all result in increased itch at night .
Infant and baby sleep schedules are unpredictable at best–and adding eczema into the mix doesn’t help. Eczema itch and discomfort leads to sleep disturbances throughout the night, including frequent waking and difficulty falling back asleep –. In fact, patients with eczema have reported that sleep disturbance is one of the three most challenging symptoms of the condition .
Sleep Disturbance in Parents and Caregivers
It’s not just little ones who are affected by itchy, sleepless nights. Researchers have found that 60% to 65% of parents and 63% of siblings of children with eczema reported disturbed sleep . The cycle of inadequate sleep common in parents often has adverse effects on parental well-being and overall quality of life . With just a few good habits, however, a restful night of sleep is possible for you, your baby and your family. Here are a few tips.
Tips for Managing Eczema and Sleep
Choose Cotton Sheets
Sheets made of cotton or other natural fibers such as linen or bamboo are often more breathable than their synthetic counterparts, such as polyester, fleece, or nylon. Breathable sheets help cool air come through the fabric, while letting warm air out. This will help prevent your baby’s body from overheating, which can worsen itchiness and other eczema symptoms.
Opt for Breathable Pajamas
Be sure to dress your baby in soft, breathable fabrics to minimize skin irritation. Avoid tight clothing and rough materials that may exacerbate eczema symptoms. Plus, be sure to wash clothes and sheets in eczema-safe laundry detergent.
Keep Your Baby’s Bedroom Cool
Heat and sweat are both eczema triggers and can make itch worse. By lowering your thermostat at night, you can keep your little one’s body temperature from rising and prevent them from sweating in their sleep.
Trim Your Baby’s Nails
Keep your baby's nails trimmed short to minimize skin damage from scratching. You may consider using mittens, but keep in mind that mittens can pose a choking hazard if they come off your baby’s hands. If you want to cover up your baby’s hands at night, look for pajamas with built-in mittens.
Keep Allergens at Bay
Identify and minimize potential allergens in your baby's environment that may be contributing to their eczema. Common triggers include pet dander and dust mites. Vacuuming, dusting, and changing linens regularly, in addition to using an air purifier, can help.
Bathe and Moisturize Before Bed
Give your little one an eczema-friendly bath before bedtime. After bathing, be sure to apply a fragrance-free moisturizer safe for sensitive skin to lock in moisture and help rehydrate their skin. Moisturizing within three minutes after bathing is ideal.
Test Your Baby’s Gut Microbiome
Tiny Health’s Baby Gut Test can help you determine whether your baby has a microbiome signature for eczema or an increased risk of developing eczema, from a gut microbiome point of view. This test can help uncover any underlying imbalances in the gut that may be contributing to symptoms and allows you to implement changes early.
Consult Your Pediatrician
If your baby's eczema is severe or persistent, consult your pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist. They can provide personalized guidance and may recommend topical treatments or medications to manage eczema symptoms effectively.
Incorporate Gladskin Into Your Baby’s Routine
When your baby’s skin improves, sleep does too. Managing symptoms and implementing a regular bedtime routine can help you promote better sleep for your baby and your whole family.
When it comes to your little one’s skin, look for minimally formulated, microbiome-friendly options like Gladskin’s Eczemact™ Soothing Cream for Babies and Kids. This gentle formula relieves dry skin associated with eczema-prone skin. It’s oat-free, steroid-free, and safe for babies ages 3 months and up. Plus it contains Micreobalance®, Gladskin’s patented protein that restores bacterial balance to the skin microbiome. Learn more.