Psoriasis: Tips to Help You Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on May 09, 2023
4 min read

If you have psoriasis, the itchy, painful scales may keep you awake at night. Nearly half the people who have it also have sleep problems. Luckily, there are easy ways to get more rest.

Moisture can soothe your skin and scalp and calm the itch. And a bath or shower before bed can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better once you nod off. But bathing or showering too often or in the wrong way can lead to dryness and irritation.

To get the benefits of a shower without drying your skin:

  • Take a warm -- not hot -- shower before you go to sleep every night.
  • Limit showers to 5 minutes and baths to 15 minutes.
  • Use your hands to lather up with a moisturizing soap or cleanser for sensitive skin. Skip the loofah, puff, or washcloth.
  • Rinse the soap off completely.
  • When you’re finished, blot the water off with a soft towel until your skin is damp, not dry.
  • Use a rich moisturizer or cream within 5 minutes of your shower before you get into bed.


Wash your hair each time you shower or bathe. Try an over-the-counter shampoo for people with psoriasis. Look for one with tar, ketoconazole, or salicylic acid.

Dandruff shampoo may also help. To give it time to work, leave it on your scalp for 5 minutes before you rinse it out.

If your doctor gave you a cream or other medicine to use during your shower, put it on your wet scalp before you shampoo. Leave it on for the prescribed period of time, then wash and rinse as usual.

Always use conditioner. It will help keep your skin moist. Shampoo alone can dry out your scalp.

After your shower, gently rub any over-the-counter creams or scale softeners that you have into your scalp. If your doctor has prescribed medicine for you to leave on, apply it now.

Put a dry shower cap over your hair before you slip into bed. This will keep it damp and hold medicine in. It may make your head sweat as you sleep, adding even more moisture.

A good bedtime routine -- sleep hygiene -- starts before you get into bed. For the best-quality sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Keep your bedroom cool.
  • Choose sheets, pillows, blankets, and pajamas in soft, breathable fabrics.
  • Relax for an hour before bed. Avoid gadgets with bright screens like TVs, computers, and smartphones.
  • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Do something quiet until you feel tired; but again, no screen time.
  • Don’t eat a big meal before you turn in.
  • Stay away from alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.


Scrapes and sunburns can trigger psoriasis. Be gentle when you scratch any part of your body. Wear sunscreen and a hat when you go outdoors.

Having psoriasis raises your chances of having depression. This can set you up for a vicious cycle, as depression can make it hard to sleep, and not sleeping well can make depression more likely. When you have psoriasis, it’s as important to take care of your emotional health as your physical health. Control stress when you can, at work and at home. Learn some techniques to relax. Try to exercise every day, and leave enough time to rest at night.

Your sleep problems could be tied to a psoriasis flare. If the itching and pain keep you awake for more than a couple of nights, call your dermatologist. They can suggest a new treatment.

It’s also possible that you’re having trouble sleeping because of another condition. People with psoriasis are more likely to have other conditions, called comorbidities. Some of these can directly affect your sleep, including:

  • Sleep apnea. The muscles in the throat relax as you sleep and block your airway, sometimes many times during the night.
  • Restless legs syndrome. An uncontrollable urge to move the legs to ease uncomfortable feelings in them, such as tingling, itching, or aching. It almost always happens in the evening when you’re sitting or lying down.
  • Psoriatic arthritis. Stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints and the places where the tendons and ligaments are attached to the bones

If you’re having trouble sleeping, let your doctor know. They may want to screen you for one or more of these conditions. Successful treatment will improve your quality of life as well as help you get better rest. Even if they rule out an existing condition, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help you sleep and work with you to use it safely.