A bad sunburn is one of the most uncomfortable feelings in the world. Worse than brushing against poison ivy. You spend all day lounging in the sun hoping for that perfect sun-kissed glow…but you end up looking like a crispy piece of bacon instead.
It hurts to wear clothes, it hurts to sit down, it hurts to move. Doing just about anything comfortably with a bad sunburn can be a challenge.
So, how in the world are you supposed to sleep when your whole body is in burning pain?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to actually cure a sunburn. The best you can hope for is to find some relief from the pain and inflammation in order to sleep and allow the burn time to heal.
Sleep is the time when your body repairs and rejuvenates itself. That means that getting adequate sleep is an important aspect to recovering from a sunburn. This can be pretty frustrating since falling asleep while your body feels hotter than your fireplace can seem impossible.
If you’re suffering from a sunburn, don’t lose hope – or any more sleep – just yet! We’ve compiled a list of useful remedies that you can use to help ease your pain and get some sleep.
Remedies to Help You Sleep with a Sunburn
Soothing your severe sunburn so that you can get comfortably get to sleep is two-fold process.1 To find relief from your sunburn, you need to:
- Alleviate the pain
- Reduce redness, inflammation, and itchiness
If you can accomplish both of these goals, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a solid night’s sleep with sunburnt skin.
The following list of remedies aim to help treat both of these painful aspects of sunburn. By applying various solutions or products topically, you can ease the pain and reduce swelling. In addition to that, making sure that you’ve created the right environment for sleeping with sunburnt skin is essential.
Keep in mind that you certainly don’t have to try all of these tips or use them in any particular order. The goal here is to provide you with the most comprehensive list of proven remedies for soothing your sunburn so that you can sleep more comfortably.
Create a Sunburn-Friendly Sleeping Environment
No one plans to get sunburnt. And if you do – you need a better hobby! If you have pale skin or find yourself regularly getting sunburnt, give some thought into creating a sleeping environment that will offer the most comfort while sleeping with scorched skin.
1. Adjust Your Sleepwear
Sleeping naked is definitely an option when you are dealing with sunburnt skin. Since clothing can often irritate and exacerbate painful sunburn – especially when sleeping – stripping down to your birthday suit is a good choice
Feeling like a prude? Don’t be.Sleeping naked can lead to better health and rest, in addition to keeping your sunburnt skin comfortable!
If you really can’t get over sleeping in the sleeping in the buff, it can be difficult to figure out the right clothing to wear when sleeping with a sunburn. Clothing that is too tight can feel constricting on your burnt skin and cause more pain. However, clothing that is too loose can rub and irritate raw skin.
Picking clothing that falls somewhere in between very loose and very tight is your best bet.
Ideally, whatever you wear should be made from cotton or another breathable fabric. It’s good for the sunburn to have a chance to get some air during the healing process.
You obviously also want whatever you wear to be soft and smooth on your skin. Silky fabrics feel nice but are not terribly breathable. Try sleeping in jersey knot cotton to get the breathability and the softness.2
2. Silk Sheets
While cotton sheets are usually a good choice for sleeping, when your skin is raw and irritated, they can feel like sandpaper on your body.
Silk sheets are incredibly smooth and silky. The soft texture of silk is ideal for sunburnt skin and won’t aggravate your sensitive skin as you move and shift in your sleep. Your body will be able to glide over the sheets with ease the silk will prevent chafing in the night.
3. Keep Water Nearby
When you are dealing with a sunburn you lose a lot of water and can easily become dehydrated. Since your body already dehydrates when you sleep, add a sunburn to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.
Be sure to drink at least 8 ounces of cool water prior to bed and keep additional water near your bedside. If you wake in the night because of your sunburn, try to drink another 8 ounces of water to help re-hydrate. While you will likely wake to pee during the night, it’s the best thing for treating your sunburnt skin.
4. Watch your sleeping position
This one should seem obvious, but you want to avoid sleeping on your sunburnt section of skin. Applying pressure (your body weight) and Friction (tossing and turning at night) is a surefire way to wake up in a world of pain.
For instance, if your chest is sunburnt then you should try to sleep on your back or on your side.
Now obviously this is easier said than done. If you lay out in the sun trying to get as Bronze as Beyoncé but fell asleep; there may not be an inch of you that isn’t glowing red. But if possible you should avoid sleeping on your sunburn, for the sake of your sleep.
These are treatments that you can apply directly to your skin for some much needed bedtime relief. You will likely have many of these ingredients already laying around your home.
While aloe vera is the most effective sunburn reliever, in my opinion, it’s not something you may have on hand. And late at night when you are suffering from sunburn you won’t be able to head out to the store to pick some up.
That’s why I have included a whole bunch of other sunburn treatments made from common household ingredients. So if you are laying in bed, wide awake due to discomfort from sunburn, give these home remedies a go.
1. Chilled Aloe Vera or Aloe Ice Cubes
If you have aloe vera on hand then stop reading here. Aloevera is perhaps the most effective natural remedy for sunburn relief in existence.
One of the most tried and true remedies for sunburnt skin is applying aloe vera. Aloe vera is a proven anti-inflammatory and can help reduce painful swelling due to sunburn.
While aloe vera in gel form can be a popular choice, it actually tends to dry out the skin according to most doctors. Stick with aloe vera taken directly from a plant or find it in the form of a lotion.
If you choose to take aloe vera directly from a plant, simply cut the plant and squeeze out as much of the natural aloe vera as possible. Cover your burn in aloe vera prior to bed, allowing it time to dry before settling under the sheets.
If you use the lotion form of aloe vera, try sticking it in the refrigerator first to chill it. The coolness of the lotion will feel that much more soothing when applied to your skin.
You can even try filling an ice cube tray with lotion or aloe vera taken directly from the plant and making ice cubes. Once the cubes have formed, wrap them in a paper towel or cheesecloth and rub directly over your burn. This will help to alleviate some of the painful heat that can often make sleeping difficult.
Be aware that aloe vera allergies are fairly common. Test out whatever aloe vera you choose to use by rubbing some on a small patch of skin first to make sure that you have no negative reaction.
Aloe vera can also be sticky, until it has been absorbed by your skin. Let the aloe vera soak into your sunburn before climbing into bed. Otherwise you will end up with sticky sheets.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar + Water
Vinegar naturally has antiseptic properties that can help to reduce inflammation, kill germs, and ease pain and itching.
Fill a spray bottle with a 1:1 ratio of apple cider vinegar and water. Shake to mix it up and evenly spray over your skin every couple of hours. Aside from helping to reduce inflammation, the cool spray on your skin will feel quite soothing.
If you can’t handle the smell, try adding a few drops of essential oil to the mixture. Lavender oil is known to promote sleepiness and may be a nice addition to your skin soothing spray when used before bedtime.
3. Cold Yogurt
Slathering your skin in cold, plain yogurt may sound gross but it can do wonders for a sunburn. Due to yogurt’s probiotic properties, it helps to balance and restore the natural protective barrier of your skin that has been compromised from burning it.
Any brand of plain yogurt will do. Simply spread it evenly over the sunburnt areas of your body and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Remove yogurt by gently wiping it away with a cool, damp washcloth before turning in for the night. Just make sure the yoghurt is truly plain, and not vanilla, and that is has probiotics.
When you’re dealing with a severe sunburn, you basically want nothing to come in contact with your skin. And while sleeping naked is a great idea, sleeping standing up so that nothing touches your skin is pretty tough.
Cornstarch has a silky texture that will help to provide a soft barrier and minimize friction between your skin and clothes or sheets.
Simply sprinkle cornstarch over your bed sheets before you get in or dust it over your burnt body parts. It won’t stain or ruin fabrics but it will help you sleep much more comfortably.
Just be sure to clean your bed when you are done. You don’t want to sleep in gritty sheets once your sunburn has cleared up.
5. Oatmeal or Baking Soda Bath
Oatmeal has a calming effect and can help reduce skin inflammation and itchiness. Baking soda naturally has a higher pH level than your skin does and will help to balance out the naturally lower pH level of your skin. Balancing the pH levels of your skin will relieve some of the pain.
You can reap the benefits of oatmeal and baking soda by adding either of them to a warm bath. Take dry oatmeal and grind it up to a fine powder in a blender or food processor. Pout the ground up oatmeal into your bath before getting in and enjoy the anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties.
Sprinkle baking soda into your bath before getting and enjoy soaking in the mixture for approximately 10-15 minutes to help ease the pain you are experiencing from the burn.
6. Raw Honey
Raw honey has natural antiseptic properties and can help to heal severely burnt skin. This can be a tricky topical solution due to the stickiness of the honey but if done properly, your skin will rejoice in the soothing relief. Personally, I prefer to eat honey as a sleep aid.
Using a tongue depressor stick, ice-cream stick or even a dull butter knife, spread a thin layer of raw honey over your burnt areas. Wrap the areas in gauze to avoid getting honey everywhere. Leave your skin wrapped in honey for up to several hours before gently washing it off in the shower before bed.
If you don’t mind the possibility that gauze will move and honey may get on your sheets, you can also sleep with the honey on your skin to enjoy the benefits overnight.
7. Milk-Based Lotion
Milk is rich in proteins and fats that can help to soothe your skin and form a light barrier over it. While milk may not make you fall asleep quicker, it can certainly help calm your angry red skin.
One option for enjoying the skin-healing properties of milk is to soak in a milk bath before getting into bed. If you aren’t terribly keen on buying gallons of milk to soak your burnt body in though, there is another way to enjoy the healing effects of milk.
Purchase a milk based lotion and cover your burnt body parts with it several times throughout the day and immediately before bed. Burnt skin means dry skin. And dry skin becomes irritated and generally begins to peel. Keeping your skin hydrated with a milk-based lotion can reduce the likelihood of dryness and peeling and cut back on irritation.
8. Black Tea Compress
Using black tea bags to form a cool compress for your skin is a great solution if you are traveling and can’t bring large bottles of lotion or gallons of milk with you to treat your sunburn. Hotels often can provide you with free black tea bags to create this soothing compress.
Brew a batch of black tea with several tea bags. Allow the tea to cool to room temperature and soak a washcloth in it. Gently pat down your burn with the black tea soaked washcloth prior to bed. The tea will help draw out some of the heat and eliminate the painful sting that can keep you up at night.
Only black tea is suitable here. Black tea contains tannic acide and theobromine that help remove that heat feeling that sunburn gives off. So while your favorite bedtime tea blend might be a great way to relax before sleep, it’s not going to do your sunburn any good.
9. Crushed Aspirin
Taking aspirin in the form of a pill can be helpful in temporarily alleviating pain from a sunburn. But there’s another way that you can use aspirin to treat your burn without having to actually ingest it.
The anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin can be enjoyed when you use the pills to make a topical paste. Simply use the back of a spoon to crush several aspirin tablets. Add a bit of water to the powder and mix it until you have a paste-like texture. Spread the paste over your burnt back or other area of your skin, leaving the mixture on for about 10 minutes before rinsing off with warm water. Try doing this right before bed in order to cut back on painful swelling
10. Veg Out
Rest and relaxation are both important components of allowing sunburn to heal, but I don’t mean veg out in front of the TV with this tip.
When you are dealing with super-sensitive areas of sunburnt skin, applying certain sliced vegetables to the area can be helpful. Cucumbers and potatoes both boast compounds that work to reduce swelling and cool the damaged skin.
Simply slice up some fresh cucumber or potato and apply the veggies directly to severely burnt areas. You can start by rubbing the area with the sliced veggies and then let the slices sit on your skin for 30 minutes while you literally ‘veg out’. Doing this before bed will help eliminate heat and swelling that may be preventing you from sleeping.
Sunburn can make all aspects of life pretty uncomfortable, including sleeping. Since sleep is a vital part of recovering from sunburn, finding ways to cope with the pain and swelling is essential.
How have you found relief from painful sunburn so that you could sleep? Share your tips and tricks in the comments, I would love to hear them!