'Tis the season to be itchy. Yup! Whether from holiday work deadlines, parties, travel, shopping, the winter weather, family tension or anything else that comes our way, most of us are going to be stressed. And if you suffer from a chronic skin condition, such as eczema, the stress will likely be even worse.
Thankfully, there are ways we can combat our stress and itchy skin — including something as (seemingly) simple as getting the proper amount of sleep.
Many of us spend a third of the day sleeping, or we should, so it’s always surprising to hear how many people underestimate the importance of their bedding. In particular, their bedsheets.
Bedsheets are overlooked because people focus on the bed itself, and perhaps the pillows. These are important, but bedsheets are more than just getting a nice "matching pair." They can be a key element, and perhaps the key element, to managing your itchy skin and getting a good night's rest. That’s why I’ve created the ultimate Buyer’s Guide to shop for eczema-friendly bedsheets.
We toss, we turn, we itch and scratch, we kick the sheets off when we’re hot, we play tug-of-war with our significant others (who might happen to be sheet hogs) and the list goes on and on.
This leads me to focus on quality. Bedsheets are put through the wringer. When shopping for them, you want to gauge their durability. Remember that you get what you pay for. If you buy cheap bedsheets, not only will they fall apart, but your skin may suffer the consequences regardless of any fragrance-free detergent you use.
What to look for: Sheets that have been tested and keep your skin cool, with strong seams and long fibers for strength, thickness, and comfort.
Bedsheets come in a variety of materials, including flannel, bamboo, jersey, linen, polyester and cotton. It’s crucial to get the right fabric when dealing with eczema. You want to make sure the material is breathable and your skin is well ventilated.
What to look for: 100 percent cotton; silk; 100 percent bamboo; or jersey sheets; hypoallergenic, dye-free and organic.
Avoid: Material that traps heat like wool, flannel, fleece, polyester, microfiber.
Should we be counting threads? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so black and white. Lots of companies can be very deceptive when listing thread count numbers, as it's been used as a marketing ploy.
Thread count is the amount of thread within a square inch of fabric. It usually ranges from 100-1200. Note that the higher the thread count does not always equate to better quality.
Generally speaking, look for anywhere from 400-600 thread count. But if you have a personal preference in this regard, by all means go for it.
Before shopping for sheets, measure your mattress. Then compare the measurements with the bedsheet set. A pair of sheets will fit a foam bed differently than, say, a waterbed. The last thing you want to do is wrestle with the sheets because they are the wrong size.
After you’ve found the perfect set of sheets, proper maintenance is important, too. Make sure to follow directions carefully. If not, you can do permanent damage, e.g., shrinking them.
You should always get into bed with a clean body. Your clothes and skin carry a lot of dirt, sweat, pollen, and germs. Clean skin will not only help you sleep better, but will keep your skin from being irritated or breaking out.
Always wash new sheets before using them. Bedsheets come nicely folded in beautiful packaging, but looks can be deceiving. Bedsheets are folded neatly to fit inside the package, not because they are clean and ready to use. Remnants of chemicals used in the manufacturing process can remain in the material, so it's important to pre-wash.
In addition, change your sheets — often! Personally, I wash my sheets at least once a week. (A lot of skin comes off on the sheets due to eczema and scratching.)
Lastly, properly store your sheets by sealing them up and keeping them in a cool, dry place. If possible, keep them away from humidity and dust.
NOTE: I highly recommend DermaTherapy sheets for people living with eczema and psoriasis — they have been tested in multiple clinical trials. The difference with these sheets is that they control moisture, thus reducing friction on your skin.