Why Do Sunburns Get Worse At Night And How To Sleep With A Sunburn?

Oh god, the very act of writing this title sent shivers down my spine...

I'm not ashamed to admit sleeping is one of my all-time favorite activities, so naturally, lack of it will completely ruin my day. And nothing will keep you up at night as the feeling of hot, sunburnt skin rubbing off your sheets. This is one of the main reasons I find sleeping with a sunburn virtually impossible.

Managing a sunburn during the day is not such a huge problem, I just slap some cream on and try to keep myself busy, so I don't think about it much, but when it's time for bed... I just want to die.

It almost seems as though... sunburns get worse at night, right before you go to bed. Why is that, is it true?

Believe it or not, it is, sunburns do get worse at night... well, sort of... let me explain.

Even though your skin gets sunburnt, the pain does not start immediately. It takes approximately 4-6 hours 'till the pain "kicks in." So, a sunburn you might have gotten during the day will start to hurt by the time you get to bed (after that 4-6 hour window)! The pain will become more intense as the time goes by, and will peak at about 24 hours after you got a sunburn.

What Are Sunburns?

Sunlight got so much “bad press” over the years; we tend to think of it only in negative terms. But, sunlight is what gives us and our planet life. Believe it or not, our bodies are built and fine-tuned to make good use of the sunlight we get.

Sun is vital for keeping our sleeping patterns in check; it helps our skin make vitamin D and lack of it, in the winter months, for example, will lead to something called “seasonal affective disorder” (winter depression , source: NewsInHealth). 

But…

Sun can also damage our skin!

The short waves, UV rays as they are called, penetrate our skin and eventually burn it, turning it red and irritated. Of course, our skin has its mechanisms to repair this damage, but as we get older, these mechanisms slow down.

And, if our skin is continuously exposed to these UV rays, it will start developing fine lines, and eventually wrinkles.

Why Do Sunburns Get Worse At Night?

As I’ve mentioned at the beginning of the article, the problem of sunburns getting worse at night has a lot to do with a “sunburn timeline.”

It takes time for a sunburn do develop, start to hurt and, of course, go away.

After you are done sunbathing, you might feel like everything is fine, but sunburn is already starting to form.

And in the first couple of hours, everything will be fine… but right around 4th hour, you might begin to notice something’s not quite right. You’ll start to feel a slight burning sensation, redness, and skin that is too hot to touch.

Now, depending on exactly when your sun exposure took place through the day, the exact moment your skin starts to burn might coincide with going to bed… and that’s the worst!

This is why we sometimes feel as though our sunburns get worse at night. Also, you should keep in mind that sunburn progressively gets worse and worse until it peaks at about 24 hours since it first started to hurt.

Another reason it might feel your sunburn is getting worse at night is the fact you are lying down, twisting and turning and pressing/rubbing your skin off the sheets. And, unfortunately for us, this is something that simply cannot avoid… You’ll have to soldier through and endure the pain and discomfort.

How To Seep With A Sunburn?

So… what do we do? Is there a way to sleep with a sunburn, make the pain more manageable and get at least some shut-eye?

Sadly, we cannot make the pain go away completely, but there are some ways you can make it just a bit more tolerable. And here those are:

  • Drinking plenty of fluid – drinking plenty of water will prevent dehydration and help your body deal with a sunburn quicker. Sunburn actually draws the water away from the rest of the body and brings it up to the surface; it is vital that you replenish this water to allow your body to function properly.
  • Apply cold compress/take a cold shower – applying a cold press will give you immediate relief. If you do this few times a day, 10-15 minutes at a time, you will help your skin recover quicker and mitigate some of the heat. Same goes for cold showers, you can also take several quick cold showers through the day, but you must pat your skin dry gently to avoid making your sunburn worse just before you go to bed… and make it even worse!
  • Apply a moisturizer – applying a moisturized would be perfect right after getting out of the shower and patting your skin dry. Why? Because shower will hydrate your skin and moisturizer will help lock in that moisture. Make sure you use a natural moisturizer though; ideally, one containing aloe vera as it will soother your skin the best.
  • Sleeping with a fan – I’m not saying you should get famous and get a fan to sleep with you, I’m talking about an electric fan that will help cool off your skin. Some people argue against leaving a fan on while you are sleeping, but I find it helpful, so I use it. It is up to you if you’ll try it or not.
  • Take ibuprofen – if the sunburn pain becomes unbearable, you can consider taking ibuprofen as it will help reduce swelling, pain, and discomfort.
Igor Marcikic
 

I've struggled with acne and oily skin for the better part of my life. Along the way, I've picked up some valuable information, tips, and tricks, which helped me manage my "situation." This website is a way of giving back and trying to help others like me! Enjoy your stay, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments down below. All the best, Igor.

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