Itchy Scalp at Night? What You Need to Know

Having an itchy scalp is frustrating enough during the day, but when the irritation starts or gets worse at night, it can be even more problematic.

An itchy scalp in the evening can disrupt your sleep, leading to tiredness the next day. Over time, being unable to get a good night’s rest can lead to other health issues and reduce your quality of life.

Read on to learn potential causes of an itchy scalp at night, as well as prevention strategies and ways to treat the condition so you can get some relief.

Home Remedies for an Itchy Scalp - Illustration by Joules Garcia

Verywell / Joules Garcia

Why Scalp Itchiness Increases at Night

Having an itchy scalp at night is also known as nocturnal pruritus. This condition can be acute (lasting only a few day or weeks) or chronic (lasting longer than six weeks).

Research shows there are many physiological reasons that skin irritation can become worse at night. Possible causes include:

  • Changes in body temperature: During sleep, natural fluctuations in skin temperature may be associated with increased itch intensity.
  • Hormone fluctuations: Circadian rhythms (the body’s internal clock) regulate levels of certain hormones. At night, the production of anti-inflammatory hormones called corticosteroids naturally falls, which may exacerbate feelings of itchiness.
  • Sweating: In the evening, there is an increase in trans-epidermal water loss, where water passes through the outermost layer of skin and evaporates from the skin’s surface. This can increase skin dryness, which may also increase the sensation of itchiness.

Researchers note that there may also be a psychological component to the increased sense of itchiness. During the day, activities can offer some distraction from itchiness, but at night, the absence of other stimuli may intensify focus on the sensation of itch.

Common Skin Conditions That Trigger Scalp Itchiness

Having an itchy scalp at night may be caused by several skin conditions. These include:

The most common causes of a chronically itchy scalp at night are psoriasis and eczema.

Studies show one of the largest complaints of individuals with eczema is chronic itching of the scalp, which leads to poor sleep patterns and results in consistent fatigue. The combination of poor sleep and itchiness caused patients with eczema to self-report fair or poor health status.

Psoriasis can flare up due to changes in diet, environment, or stress. When scalp itchiness disrupts sleep, it can increase stress, which in turn can exacerbate a psoriasis flare.

Individuals who have psoriasis may also experience thermodysregulation (abnormal or exaggerated changes in body temperature), which can intensify the sensation of scalp itchiness at night.

Other Conditions That May Cause Scalp Itchiness

Several health conditions can cause the scalp to itch at night. They include the following:

  • Thyroid problems
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Iron deficiency
  • Anemia
  • Lymphoma or leukemia
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Shingles
  • Stress
  • Schizophrenia
  • An allergic reaction
  • Multiple sclerosis

Home Remedies for an Itchy Scalp

There are several home remedies that you can try for an itchy scalp. However, it’s important to understand the reason why your scalp is itching in order to properly treat the itch. Consulting your healthcare provider can help you get an accurate diagnosis and point you toward the best course of treatment for quicker relief.

Most commonly, an itchy scalp at night is due to a skin condition.

In some cases, scalp itchiness may be triggered by an allergic reaction to certain chemicals in hair care products. It can help to look at your products and eliminate any with a lot of additives to see if that helps.

Other conditions can be treated with over-the-counter shampoos or other treatments. For instance, if you suspect dandruff is behind your scalp itchiness, a medicated shampoo may help. Or if head lice are the culprit, an anti-lice shampoo can help.

Certain home remedies are believed to help treat an itchy scalp including peppermint oil, tea tree oil, warm olive oil, and coconut oil. Olive and coconut oils can be applied directly to the scalp to provide moisture and dial down inflammation, which may help reduce itchiness.

A few drops of tea tree or peppermint oil can be mixed into neutral oils and massaged into the scalp. These essential oils have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that may be beneficial in treating lice and some other skin conditions. Be sure to always check with your healthcare provider before trying any new treatments.

If stress is a factor contributing to an itchy scalp, exercise and calming activities such as meditation, yoga, journaling, or stretching can help. You can also seek help from a licensed mental health professional to help with the stress.

When to Seek Professional Treatment

If your scalp is persistently itching at night and you can’t find any relief, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

If itching scalp is accompanied by a rash, if you have sores or other lesions, or you were bitten, see your healthcare provider. They will help you understand why your scalp is itching and give the proper treatment options so the symptoms can be reduced or eliminated.

Preventing an Itchy Scalp at Night

There are a few ways to reduce the likelihood of an itchy scalp at night. In addition to treating any skin conditions that are causing your scalp to itch, sleep experts recommend making certain adjustments to your sleeping area, including:

  • Make sure your sheets and pillowcases are clean and made of material that won’t trigger itching or irritation.
  • Consider running a humidifier near your bed. This infuses the air with moisture, which may reduce itchiness.
  • Keep your room at around 65 F. Cooler sleeping temperatures have been shown to help with the body’s own temperature regulation.

Summary

Having an itchy scalp is a frustrating condition that can impair sleep and lead to additional health issues if left untreated. Common causes include dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, and lice.

It’s important to contact your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis and treatments. Some home remedies, such as anti-dandruff shampoos, medicated lice treatments, and moisturizing oils, may offer some relief.

A Word From Verywell

An itchy scalp at night can have a negative impact on your quality of life. The lack of sleep caused by this condition can lead to more problems down the line, so it’s important to get proper treatment as soon as possible.

Fortunately, there is hope. You can get a good night’s sleep again with proper treatment. The first step to feeling better is consulting your healthcare provider. Once you understand the reason behind your itchy scalp at night, you can use the suggested treatment and/or medications and be on your way to sound slumber.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should you wash your hair if you have an itchy scalp at night?

    If your scalp is itchy, it may mean that it is dry. To allow natural moisturizing oils to build up, some experts recommend washing hair every other day instead of daily. However, depending on the specific condition causing your itchy scalp, your healthcare provider may prescribe a shampoo and require that you wash your hair more frequently.

  • How can you stop your scalp from itching at night without washing it?

    You may be able to relieve scalp itching at night by massaging in warm olive or coconut oil (add a few drops of peppermint oil or tea tree oil, if desired). Also, make sure your sheets are clean and made of soothing material and that the air in your bedroom is not too dry. A humidifier can help add moisture to the air.

  • When should I be concerned about my itchy scalp at night?

    You should be concerned if the itching is persistent and doesn’t go away, or if it’s accompanied by a rash. If you have a known skin condition and there is no relief, contact your healthcare provider. It’s also a good idea to contact your healthcare provider if you were bit by a bug or have lice.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 reasons your scalp itches and how to get relief.

  3. Di Campli E, Di Bartolomeo S, Delli Pizzi P, et al. Activity of tea tree oil and nerolidol alone or in combination against Pediculus capitis (head lice) and its eggsParasitol Res. 2012;111(5):1985-1992. doi:10.1007/s00436-012-3045-0