Itchy Scalp at Night? What You Need to Know

Common causes are psoriasis and eczema, but there could be other reasons

Having an itchy scalp at night can keep you from sleeping well, making you tired the next day. That's bad for your overall health and quality of life, especially if it's a chronic problem.

This article explains the potential causes of an itchy scalp at night plus how you can treat and prevent it.

Home Remedies for an Itchy Scalp - Illustration by Joules Garcia

Verywell / Joules Garcia

Why Scalp Itch Is Worse at Night

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

Research suggests many physical reasons that skin irritation can get worse at night:

  • Changes in body temperature: During sleep, natural fluctuations in skin temperature may be associated with increased itch intensity.
  • Hormone fluctuations: At night, your level of anti-inflammatory hormones (corticosteroids) naturally falls, which may exacerbate itchiness.
  • Sweating: In the evening, you have more trans-epidermal water loss (water passing through the outermost layer of skin and evaporating). This can make your skin dry and itchy.

It may also be that your itchiness is just as bad during the day, but you're more distracted so you just notice it more at night.

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 atopic dermatitis.

Studies show one of the biggest complaints of people with atopic dermatitis is a chronic scalp itch that leads to poor sleep and prolonged fatigue.

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.

If you have psoriasis, you may also have thermodysregulation (abnormal or exaggerated changes in body temperature), which can intensify an itchy scalp at night.

Other Conditions That Cause Itchy Scalp

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

Home Remedies for an Itchy Scalp

You can try several home remedies for an itchy scalp at night. However, you need to know why your scalp itches in order to find the right treatment. Your healthcare provider can give you a diagnosis and point you toward the best treatments.

Always check with your healthcare provider before trying any home remedies to be sure you're using them safely.

CAUSE OF ITCHINESS POSSIBLE HOME REMEDIES 
Skin conditions Ask your healthcare provider for treatment recommendations
Allergic reaction Allergy medications; elimination of hair products that may be problematic
Dandruff Dandruff shampoo
Lice Anti-lice shampoo, a lice comb, peppermint oil, tea tree oil
Stress Exercise, calming activities (meditation, yoga, journaling), mental health counseling
Dry skin or inflammation Peppermint oil, tea tree oil, coconut oil, or warm olive oil
Bacterial overgrowth Peppermint oil, tea tree oil
Sources: American Academy of Dermatology Association, Di Campli et al.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if:

  • You have persistent nighttime scalp itchiness
  • An itching scalp is accompanied by a rash
  • You have sores or other lesions
  • You were bitten or stung

They can help you understand why your scalp is itching and give you proper treatment options to reduce or eliminate the itch.

Preventing an Itchy Scalp at Night

To reduce your likelihood of an itchy scalp at night, you can try these recommendations from sleep experts:

  • 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 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, you can get back to sleeping well with proper treatment. The first step to feeling better is seeing your healthcare provider. Once you know why you have an itchy scalp at night, you can find the right treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

    Your scalp may be itchy because it's dry. To allow natural moisturizing oils to build up, some experts recommend washing your hair every other day, not daily.

    However, for some causes of itchy scalp, your healthcare provider may prescribe a shampoo that's requires more frequent washing.

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

    You should be concerned if the itching is persistent, accompanied by a rash, or associated with bug bites or lice. If you have a known skin condition and can't find relief, contact your healthcare provider.

2 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.
  1. Lavery MJ, Stull C, Kinney MO, Yosipovitch G. Nocturnal pruritus: the battle for a peaceful night’s sleep. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(3):425. doi:10.3390/ijms17030425

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 reasons your scalp itches and how to get relief.

Additional Reading

By Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.