Why is sleep so important?

Can’t fall asleep.. my mind is too active! Does this sound familiar? How about ‘I woke up and I can’t go back to sleep!’… or tossing and turning all night?.. or ‘scratching my itchy skin is keeping me awake!’

Sleep is a fickle thing. Vital for recovery and recharging of our vital energy, it all too often eludes us, eroding our energy levels, adding to our stress.

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is the time where we allow the body to rest and recover and repair itself. Sleep is essential for overall wellbeing, stress management and skin health.

Many skin conditions adversely affect sleep, this may be due to persistent itching and scratching at night, burning and hot skin, discomfort due to dry skin and pain and so on.

Stress is a big enemy of sleep, and sleep quality is often a good indication of how well stress is managed. Typically, in times of high stress, we may have difficulty in falling asleep (sleep onset insomnia) or waking in the early hours of the morning and not being able to return to sleep (sleep-maintenance insomnia).

All too often these factors lead to a vicious cycle where stress results in poor sleep, which results in skin condition flares, which exacerbates poor sleep, which results in fatigue which results in higher stress and a worsening skin condition, which leads to even worse sleep and higher stress and so on.

So how do we tackle this conundrum?

Well, first we need to look at improving whatever is interfering with our sleep. If it’s a skin issue, it’s time to work on that problem and get the itch and discomfort down. If there’s stress, work on the stress using good stress management techniques and improving nutrition so we have the nutrients to counteract the effects of stress.

If sleep is just fickle for no reason, it’s time to look at sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene

These are effective steps we can take to improve the quality of sleep.  As with all things, it is worthwhile to persist with these steps, and within a few weeks, they should be making a big difference.

  • Try to maintain regular sleep patterns, for example, go to bed at 10 and rise at 6, try not to deviate from this routine.
  • Use your bed for rest only – not eating, or watching TV, or using your phone
  • Avoid day naps as far as possible
  • Consistent night time routine – wind down before bed – switch off mobile devices an hour before bed, warm bath, dim lighting, read a book and so forth
  • Make sure the bedroom is quiet & decluttered bedroom, a calm space
  • Make sure the bed is comfortable, clothing is light and comfortable, pillows are comfortable
  • Regular exercise is important for health.  Exercise should be a few hours at least before bedtime to avoid overstimulation
  • Use relaxation techniques before bed
  • Avoid stimulants and diuretics – alcohol, drinking coffee in the afternoon, sugary snacks after dinner
  • Temperature control – keep the temperature cool in the bedroom, wear light comfortable clothing, and avoid heating/ spicy foods at dinner time.

Phillip Bayer

Senior Practitioner, Psoriasis Eczema Clinic

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Stress and its relationship to the Immune system

 Stress has very much become a part of life with most of us functioning under moderate to very high stress most of the time during our working lives. The impacts of significant stress are far-reaching and affect all aspects of human health. Chronic stress is a less intense, longer lasting form of stress than acute stress, which over time, is associated with increased ‘wear and tear’ on body systems and quality of life.

Since the dawn of mankind, through the process of evolution, the human body developed mechanisms to protect itself during periods of stress. Known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, these mechanisms are designed to save our lives in dangerous situations. The problem in modern times is that stress has become much more continuous and frequent, and therefore these normal physiological responses to stress are frequently or continuously affecting us, which results in health problems.

Often overlooked are the damaging effects of high stress on the immune system. Stress poses a significant risk to immune health, as it results in increased inflammation, decreased number and function of immune cells, and disrupted immune system balance.

The outcome of this impact may result in a health condition, such as cancer, skin conditions such as atopic eczema & psoriasis, recurrent infections, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and auto-immune conditions.

In addition, chronic high stress or a sudden stressful event is also very often involved in a flare of an existing health condition.

Very often, your body will show physical signs of high stress when the threshold of acceptable stress has been crossed. These signs may include:

  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced libido
  • Sleeping difficulties – such as difficulty to fall or remain asleep
  • Weight gain around the middle
  • Cravings for caffeine or sugar
  • Muscle aches/pains/twitching
  • Frequent headaches
  • Frequent infections
  • Low moods/ feeling flat/ inability to enjoy life

If there is significant stress, it is vital that the stress is addressed and its effects decreased in order to reduce the effect of this enormous driver for health issues.  If the source of stress itself cannot be eliminated, and usually it cannot, then we need to consider ways to mitigate and reduce the effects of the stress on the body.

This is where effective stress management strategies need to be implemented and adhered to in order to help with your health concern.

In more serious cases of acute or chronic stress, such as abusive relationships, addiction, clinical depression, PTSD and anxiety, professional help is required. Helplines such as Lifeline (www.lifeline.org.au Tel: 131114) can offer support and guidance if needed.

The practitioners at Psoriasis Eczema Clinic can assess all the triggers for your skin condition and can advise you how to address these triggers.

 Phillip Bayer

Senior Practitioner, Psoriasis Eczema Clinic

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Rosacea- The Condition and its Triggers

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Rosacea is a condition affecting the face where the skin becomes persistently red, often with visible tiny blood vessels and acne-like bumps and pimples. There may be intermittent burning, stinging or mild itching. The skin may be may also be dry and mildly swollen. As the disease progresses, there may also be associated with eye symptoms, such as burning, irritation, redness and flaking of the eyelashes. Over many years the nose may become damaged and scarring may occur due to the acne-like lesions on the skin.

It is often preceded by episodes of facial flushing, which may last for years. It typically starts after the age of 30. The genetic component of this disorder is not well understood. However, a possible genetic origin in Northern European descendants, family inheritance, twin concordance, and genetic associations with autoimmune disorders attest the genetic predisposition to rosacea.

In addition to these factors, there are certain factors which may trigger off the condition. These are known as Primary Triggers.

These include

  • Emotional stress
  • Trauma – for example sun or wind burn
  • A pre-existing skin condition, for example, eczema of the face
  • Hormonal triggers, for example, the menopause
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Secondary triggers are those which contribute to the condition once it already exists. There are many of them, but below are a few examples:

  • Hot beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Emotional stress
  • Air conditioning

The practitioners at Psoriasis Eczema Clinic are very experienced in the treatment of this condition and can help you identify and manage your triggers and improve your skin condition.

Phillip Bayer

Senior Practitioner, Psoriasis Eczema Clinic.

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Understanding the Triggers in Vitiligo

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What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is the most common of depigmentation disorders. It is an acquired pigmentation disorder of the skin and mucous membranes, in which there is a loss of melanocytes or pigmentation, producing irregular white spots and or white patches.

Initially, the white spots or white patches are small but enlarge over time. In some people, the white spots or white patches spread slowly while in others the spread is rapid.

 The Triggers in Vitiligo

Both genetic and non-genetic factors are believed to be involved in the onset of Vitiligo. Although several theories have been proposed as to the cause of Vitiligo, the precise mechanism causing the condition remains unknown.

According to researchers the exact triggers of the condition vary widely patient by patient, thus making it difficult to conclusively define the primary cause. However, given that autoimmune diseases typically involve interactions between genetic risk factors and environmental triggering factors, the autoimmune theory seems to be the most plausible.

After the genetic component (approx 20 -30% of sufferers have at least one affected first-degree relative) is taken into consideration the main triggering factors are considered to be

  • Environmental i.e. poor nutrition
  • Emotional stress
  • Trauma (Koebner Phenomenon)
  • Drugs and exposure to chemicals
  • Infections
  • Toxins and sepsis
  • Exposure to the sun

At the Psoriasis Eczema, we help patients achieve remission of their skin condition by helping them to identify their triggers.

Phillip Bayer (Practitioner at Psoriasis Eczema Clinic)

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Understanding the Triggers in Eczema

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There are many types of eczema. The condition can occur on any part of the body and results in inflammation of the skin with itching. Sometimes dryness and scaling, weeping, blistering and thickening of the skin may be seen.

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. This is a genetic skin condition often seen in association with asthma and/or hay fever in the patient or their family.  There are many triggers in eczema. They vary by person and by type of eczema.

Below are some of the more common triggers known to be involved in eczema:

  • Allergies – these can be divided into food and inhalant allergies. Inhalant allergies include pollens, grasses, animal hair, and dust. There may be a seasonal component to these allergies, for example, certain types of pollens during spring.
  • Dietary triggers – certain foods may exacerbate eczema by means of their histamine content or histamine-inducing action, or their dehydrating effect on the body. Some foods contain super antigens which make eczema worse. Inversely, certain foods may help eczema improve.
  • Heat and Cold – Both of these triggers are common in eczema, not only does the climate play a role but also air conditioning, which may dry out and exacerbate eczema
  • Stress – A very common triggers in people over the age of 13, emotional stress is often the single biggest trigger in many types of eczema.
  • Chemicals – Any chemical may cause a flare of eczema, but the better-known ones are strong soaps, swimming pool chlorine, and washing detergents.
  • Teething in children – another very common trigger of atopic eczema in children, teething may cause significant flares of otherwise well-controlled eczema in infants and toddlers.
  • Infections, diseases, and fevers – eczema flares are often preceded by infections in children and adults, for example, ear infections and tonsillitis.
  • Hormonal triggers – in women, some patients report their eczema flaring certain times of the month or during the menopause.

For eczema to be managed effectively, it is vital that a person understands their specific triggers and take action to control them. If done well, this can help to keep the condition dormant, or very mild.

At the Psoriasis Eczema, we help patients achieve remission of their skin condition by helping them to identify their triggers.

Phillip Bayer (Practitioner at Psoriasis Eczema Clinic)

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How to deal with the post-festive season slump?

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A how to list from our Integrative Dermatology Specialists at Psoriasis Eczema Clinic.

This time of year, many people may feel overwhelmed and exhausted following the build up to Christmas and New Year festivities. Facing the prospect of returning to very busy, high demand lives can be unnerving.   If you are feeling unwell, fatigued and having trouble getting back into the swing of things you’re not alone!

Here are some tips to regain your energy and feel ready to tackle the year ahead:

  1. Take a break from alcohol – Holiday time can mean more consumption of alcohol, which sometimes can become a regular part of dinnertime. Alcohol consumption can lead to excess weight gain, headaches, and difficulty in sleeping, so try and limit this to weekends or eliminate altogether.
  2. Invest in some vitamins to support adrenal glands– Vitamins C, and B complex, as well as Magnesium. These supplements will support the nervous system as well as helping adrenal glands in meeting more physical and mental demands.
  3. Get back into exercise – you may not feel like you have the energy, but start small and build up to at least 30 mins exercise 3-4 times a week, even if this is just an evening walk. The key is raising your heart rate and getting more aerobically fit, you will soon see that your energy improves.
  4. Eat well – This requires planning so make sure that you have an organised approach to the weekly shop so that you have enough to cover healthy lunches and snacks while at work / home. If you are a busy person buy snacks that you can eat on the go such as nuts, seeds, fruit, dark chocolate. Try making your own trail mix with your favorite raw nuts and seeds with a small amount of dried fruit of your choice. Make dinners easy with grilled fish or meat and salad, or veggies.

Would you like to know more about how to manage your Chronic Skin Condition? Our team of Integrative Dermatologists would enjoy showing you how!

The Psoriasis Eczema Team.