Waking Perpetually Tired: Scratching and Sleep

TIRED  Is being tired a lot just a normal part of adulthood and the busy frenetic lifestyle that we’ve set up for ourselves as a culture?

Is being perpetually tired an indicator that something is ‘off’ internally?

I thought about these two things when I pondered the fact that, along with the progression of my rashes and eczema, my sleep cycle seemed to have a subtle, yet pervasive deterioration.

The tough thing about it is that there are a lot of things that can make someone feel tired, and because the change in my fatigue and energy levels was not rapid nor dramatic, it’s even more difficult to think critically about what to do differently.

So bear with me as I verbally ‘think [type] out loud’ and try to make sense of it.

One COULD first blame my attempts to cut out caffeine.  There was a time when I was addicted to caffeine.  Years ago, I would actually sleep with a Diet Mt. Dew under my bed, so that I could slug it in the morning before even planting my feet on the floor to greet the day.  Then, 2 years ago, we got the magical Keurig coffee brewer as a gift, and so I started drinking one mug of coffee every morning (but as more of a morning ritual than for a wake-up call).  Caffeine, when used judiciously, is a wonderful drug.  It adds a certain ‘sparkle’ to the day, makes me friendlier and more productive, and makes me able to run or exercise faster and longer.

However, we all know it’s not good to be overcaffeinated.  It stresses out the adrenal glands and can dehydrate us.  And of course it can backfire by making us MORE tired when we become dependent on it.  Knowing that it’s something I don’t NEED, I tried to keep my use of it very minimal starting around July of this year.  This was also the time that I gave up coffee and have only had coffee a handful of times since then.

So, my system should have acclimated to minimal caffeine by now.  Let’s next look at stress and sleep level.  I would say that I get around 7-8 hours of sleep a night, trying to make it closer to 8.  Maybe this is not enough and I need to be one of those 9 hour people, but even on the days that I get 8+ hours of sleep, I still often wake up with an underlying tiredness.  Along with this tiredness comes a lack of ambition and focus.  I’m a functioning member of society, I’m able to keep my house reasonably clean, and I manage to get things done at work and school, but I used to have a whole lot more “get up and go” and not be as restless and distracted.  I trained for and completed a marathon last year, but I couldn’t imagine doing that now.  My joke is that my “get up and go”, got up and went!

I don’t have a problem GETTING to sleep.  I can usually sleep almost any time, any where (Which was one of the first things that tipped me off that something was different – I could sleep in the middle of the day, at work, at school, while watching TV at home, etc.)  My night time routine is always to read something in bed, and then I’m out within about 5-10 minutes.  I just have a problem dragging my ass out of bed in the morning and then feeling blah for the rest of the day.

Having these ‘symptoms’, along with a couple others that I’ll visit in a future blog post (I hesitate to even call them symptoms, because most adults in this country probably feel that way) gives me pause, as they are notably different from the way things ‘used to be’ for myself.

When thinking about the possibility of something being ”off” internally, my first thought goes to thyroid, as a lot of these complaints can be associated with abnormal thyroid levels.  I visited the topic of thyroid in a previous post, where the holistic doc provided me with a thyroid supplement.  I have since used up the supplement (it was about a month’s supply) and am due to see her again in about 2 weeks, but I didn’t notice any radical improvements while on it.  (The biggest improvements came from ceasing the use of anything with aloe and beeswax, but that was improvement on my face – the eczema on my body is in about the same state.)  However, in retrospect, I find it odd that she would put me on a thyroid supplement without actually having my thyroid levels tested.  So the other day, I visited my nurse practitioner and then got blood drawn at the lab to test for thyroid and other hormone levels, as I’ve not actually had these tested.  I don’t have the results yet but I’ll be eager to see them.

So now we examine my actual sleep habits themselves.  I am an extremely restless sleeper (I also have a mild case of ‘restless legs syndrome’ – I totally get the pulling/tingling feeling late at night sometimes) and have been told that I thrash around, roll back and forth rapidly, and kick in my sleep.  Not to mention itching in my sleep.  Sometimes I will be consciously woken up and be scratching incessantly at myself.  I don’t usually wake up with noticeably more damaged skin, but yesterday I woke up with a few “claw marks” on my arms where I must have been trying to scratch.  I’ve tried the whole ‘socks over hands’ thing, but they always come off.  I also keep my fingernails very short so I can’t do much damage, but the overwhelming urge to itch is almost always there at night.

Thus with that, the question is akin to “which came first – the chicken or the egg”?

Am I restless because I’m scratching?

Or am I scratching because I’m restless?

What are your thoughts on being tired?  Are your sleep habits affected by eczema or other health conditions?


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8 thoughts on “Waking Perpetually Tired: Scratching and Sleep

  1. Amanda says:

    I still am impressed that you ran a marathon! I definitely wake up with claw marks, and like you, socks over my hands come off. Itching wakes me up a lot at night, but so do a lot of other things. I’m a really light sleeper, and I have nightmares a lot — so I never really feel well-rested. I wake up a bunch of times throughout the night unless I take sleeping pills.

  2. Well thank you 🙂 I’m sorry to hear that you have nightmares a lot! My husband had a lot of panic attacks and anxiety the past year and had a terrible time sleeping, so although I’m not prone to that as one of the things that prevents my rest, I can definitely identify. Something as small as just a good restful night’s sleep is a thing that many people take for granted!

    Do you drink any kind of caffeine to get you through the day with feeling tired? Or do you just suck it up and deal with feeling tired?

    • Amanda says:

      That’s too bad that your husband has been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. It’s something I’m very familiar with — and sometimes it’s the worst when I’m falling asleep. Sometimes, right when I fall asleep, I immediately wake up in a panic and it goes on and on for hours. I found this app that has been helping me lately called Sound Sleep. It’s just various white noise sounds – waves crashing, thunder, etc. and you can customize it to whatever you want.

      I work for a tea company so I definitely drink caffeine… but I stop before noon because then I can’t sleep at night!

  3. Courtney says:

    Ugh I feel you there!! I actually just started a vegan/sugar-free diet yesterday to get my itching/eczema under control!! I constantly wake myself up with the scratching, and like you, the socks don’t do the trick. On top of the itching, I sleepwalk/sleeptalk almost every night, so I’m exhausted by the time my alarm goes off in the morning haha!

    With chronic eczema sufferers, I think it’s a combination of itching b/c you are restless and being restless because you are itching. I think it’s a vicious cycle and we become so used to the itching, that we just do it. Sometimes I catch myself scratching my leg, arm, or neck and then realize that I’m not even itchy, I’m just scratching out of habit!! Scary. However when we wake ourselves up by scratching, obviously we are not just doing that out of habit.

    I hope you find some relief soon!!!

    • I’ll be very interested to know how your vegan and sugar free diet goes! It sounds like absolutely no fun, LOL, but if it helps you, then it will not be as hard to stick to! I followed a quasi-vegan diet for a while (where I ate vegan probably 90-95% of the time) and really tried to keep sugar and processed foods to a minimum (I still do that, but lately I have been guilty of eating candy and chips and christmas cookies) and I didn’t really notice any help. But, maybe I was not strict enough. Hope you’ll have better luck than me!

      I could not agree more with the just itching out of ‘habit’ or because of being restless! Such a hard habit to break. I am thinking of trying some kind of mindful meditation to help me become more aware of these cues for itching and then try to eliminate doing it all the time as a habit!

  4. jasmia92 says:

    Thank you for this post – I came across it because I was wondering why I always feel a sudden sense of fatigue when I itch. I think what you mentioned about getting your 8 hours or so sleep but then still waking up tired is because you’re not getting deep sleep. So even though you’re getting the hours you should be – it probably just feels like you’ve only had 5 hours. I get this a lot and I think sleeping on my front helps, because I don’t scratch as much, if at all. When you’re scratching so much in your sleep you’re probably not getting the deep sleep you need but I think scratching in your sleep is linked to any underlying feelings of not being settled or anxiety. Sometimes, before I go to bed, sitting still and in silence (kind of like meditating) helps calm my spirit so that I don’t automatically think to scratch when I get into bed.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Eczema and fatigue are always good indicators of food intolerances. See a naturopath and get tested. An IgA test could pinpoint which foods are causing your body harm.

    • Hi Jennifer, thank you for weighing in. Definitely food can have a huge effect on how we feel and often how we look as well. My eczema and fatigue are now thankfully resolved but for other people still struggling with it, it is definitely something to consider.

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