Waking Up with Scratches: 10 reasons explained

Waking up with scratches on your face, neck, chest, abdomen or legs? Have you wondered why it happens? Here are ten reasons why you may wake up with cuts or scratches on your skin.

Reasons you could be waking up with scratches

Dermatographia

Dermatographia also called skin writing, is a skin condition in which the skin becomes raised and red along the lines of a scratch or skin pressure. Having a dry skin may contribute to this and it may be itchy as well. Scratching the skin vigorously increases the number of scratch marks, they become abrasions which may become infected if not properly treated. The scratch marks of dermatographia will usually disappear in about 45 minutes except accompanied by skin abrasions.

Scratching yourself while sleeping

This is usually the case when the areas of scratch marks are those areas that you can reach with your fingers. It happens if you have long nails and even with short finger nails that are not filed.

Putting on clothes with adornments

Some clothes made of materials such as lace have stones and other adornments that have sharp edges which cause scratches. These scratches may occur either while putting on the clothes or while the clothes are being removed. You may only notice it the morning because when you are having a bath, you put soap and water on an open wound. Using bathing sponge on your skin may also cause burning sensation along the scratch marks.

waking up with scratches
waking up with scratches could be due to a number of reasons

Animals and pets

If you have pets at home, they might have scratched your skin during the day. If your pets sleep on same bed as you do, they might scratch you albeit inadvertently at night. Other animals in the household such as wall gecko and rats may crawl over your skin and cause skin scratches while you were asleep.

Scratch during daily activity

Scratch during daily activity which you didn’t pay attention to. You might have forgotten you had a skin abrasion during your daily activities. For instance, being scratched by a the door or the edge of the table or door handle. You probably looked at your cloth or your skin absentmindedly and just went ahead with your daily activity.

Insect bites

Insect bite such as mosquito bite might cause an itch that makes you scratch yourself at night. Some insects such as roving beetle also called ‘Skirt and Blouse’ or ‘Electric Ant’ or ‘Paapa’ might have crawled on your skin while you were asleep. This can give scratch marks with redness and swelling of the skin over which the bug might have crawled. Other bugs and fleas on your skin may also account for the scratch marks.

Allergies

Allergic reactions to certain foods and drugs may result in wheals and itchiness. This subsequently results in scratch marks. Secondly, atopy is common and the person may be having skin allergy to the bedsheet or bedcover used. Cotton bedsheets are best to avoid this.

Skin infections/infestations

Scabies is a parasitic skin infestation caused by a mite called Sarcoptes Scabiei . This mite burrows into the skin where it lays its egg and is most active at night because that is when your temperature is warmer and more conducive for the parasite. This skin condition is known to cause intense itching and therefore gives scratch marks noted at dawn. Scabies is transmitted from person to person through skin contact or use of personal belongings of an infected person such as towels. If scratch marks are caused by scabies, they may be red flat spots and rashes or dry scaly skin.

Dry skin

Some people have naturally dry skin and if not properly moisturized become itchy. This itchiness may be worse at night because of a cooler night temperature in most places. In addition, the skin gets even drier in harmattan or winter season. Not using a moisturizing skin lotion and/or use of bathing soap that rips skin of its moisture. Stretch marks are itchier with dry skin and may give scratch marks. Use of a moisturizing bathing soap and cream is helpful for this skin condition.

Pregnancy related conditions

A pregnant woman gains weight rapidly especially around the abdomen and hips. With this rapid weight gain comes stretch marks which are commonly seen in the abdomen, breasts, buttocks and hips. The stretching of the skin brings about the sensation of itching. Stretch marks on skin become itchy because of the thinness of the skin over the stretchmarks. This itchiness may be worse at night especially if the skin is not well moisturized. Stretch marks are straight (usually vertical) lines resulting from stretching of the skin during weight fluctuations. They may appear red or purple on a light skin and black on dark skin. You may scratch it in your sleep and wake up to notice scratch marks.

 Papular dermatitis of pregnancy is a skin problem in which rashes appear over skin areas with stretch marks and it arises in pregnancy only. It is associated with extreme itchiness and scratching will give rise to scratch marks. It is most common in third trimester and resolves without any treatment following delivery.

Conclusions

So waking up with scratches is not due to witches and wizards pressing you at night. It could be due to reasons discussed above.

About the author

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Doctor

Grace is an internist currently practising in Nigeria. She has gained experience practising both in the private and public health sectors over the last ten years. She is passionate about giving patients adequate information about their health conditions. She believes that a large part of the management of chronic diseases lies with patients' understanding of their illnesses and the need for lifestyle modifications and medications.