Can't sleep? Psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis may be to blame

Does psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis affect your quality of sleep? Could poor sleep make psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis worse? Studying questions like these and the connection between sleep and all forms of psoriasis is the focus of her life research, says Dr. Kristina Callis Duffin of the University of Utah's dermatology department in Salt Lake City.

Psoriasis Forum, the National Psoriasis Foundation's journal for professionals, Callis Duffin and fellow researchers surveyed people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis about their sleep and compared their answers with those of a control group. The results: People with psoriasis reported a higher level of sleep-related problems and those with psoriatic arthritis had significantly more sleep issues compared to the general population.

Psoriasis may affect the quality of your sleepIn one recent study, published in the Fall 2011 issue of Psoriasis Forum. "It can get into a vicious cycle," Callis Duffin says. "The hurting and itching leads to poor sleep, which leads to fatigue, which leads to more pain and itching, which leads to even worse sleep."

Callis Duffin says the cycle could go the other direction as well—with poor sleep being a possible psoriasis trigger—something she plans to explore in future research.

"More study is needed," she says. "This was just a quick look at a potentially very big problem."

Symptoms to watch for include trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep, daytime fatigue, restless leg syndrome, and snoring, gasping, or frequent waking which could indicate sleep apnea. All of these symptoms were reported in higher numbers by people who had psoriasis and even more so by those with psoriatic arthritis, Callis Duffin says.

So what should you do if you are having trouble getting a good night's sleep? Keep track of your symptoms in a sleep journal and talk to your doctor about participating in a sleep study. Because sleep problems tend to get worse and more ingrained over time, Callis Duffin says the sooner you take action, the better.

"Today, sleep studies can be done in the comfort of your own home," she says. "You don't necessarily have to go and sleep overnight in a lab anymore."

Bottom line: Researchers are only beginning to understand the complex connections between sleep and health in general and sleep and psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis in particular. But one thing is clear—getting a good night's rest should be an important part of an overall psoriasis management plan.

This story originally appeared in the Cure e-newsletter. Sign up for free e-newsletters »

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