Hidradenitis suppurativa and sleep: How to get more zzz's

If pain and itching are keeping you up at night, try these tips for managing symptoms and improving sleep habits.

When you have the skin condition hidradenitis suppurativa, symptoms such as pain and itching can make a good night's sleep seem impossible. Just as a healthy diet and regular physical activity are essential to good health, so is quality sleep. This is especially true when you're managing a chronic condition.

Hidradenitis treatments can help reduce pain. You can also try:

  • Cool or hot compresses. Cooling or warming the affected areas for about 10 minutes may ease pain.
  • A hot tea bag. Boil water and pour it over a tea bag in a cup. Let the tea bag sit in the hot water for a minute. Then take the tea bag out and put it on the painful area for about 10 minutes.
  • Pain relievers. Ask your doctor to recommend the most appropriate pain reliever.

In addition to doing your best to manage your condition and symptoms, try to adopt these habits that encourage better sleep.

  • Set aside no more than 8 hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don't need more than eight hours.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. Consistency reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle.
  • If you can't fall asleep, get up. Leave your bedroom and do something relaxing like listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you're tired. Repeat as needed.
  • Don't go to bed hungry or stuffed. Avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Your discomfort might keep you up.
  • Use caution with nicotine, caffeine and alcohol. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
  • Set up a room that's ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create a peaceful environment.
  • Do calming activities before bedtime. Try taking a bath or using relaxation techniques to promote better sleep.
  • Skip napping or nap strategically. Avoid long daytime naps — they can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, aim for under 30 minutes and don't nap late in the day. But if you work nights, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.
  • Use regular physical activity to promote better sleep. Spending time outside every day might help you sleep better, too. Avoid being active too close to bedtime.
  • Try to resolve your worries before bedtime. Write down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. You can also try stress management techniques. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety.

If your hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms are keeping you up at night on a regular basis, and these steps aren't helping, be sure to tell your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the better sleep you deserve.

Oct. 01, 2020 See more In-depth

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