The Mayo Clinic estimates that three in four women will have a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lifetime. If you’re one of the lucky ones who’s had one, then you know that the itching and irritation of a yeast infection can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. This article will explore what a yeast infection is, how to treat it for better sleep, and how to prevent it from happening again.
What is a yeast infection?
A vaginal yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast cells in the vagina. The most common culprit is a type of fungus called Candida. Although it usually lives in the body without causing problems, too much of it can cause a lot of discomfort—and disrupt your sleep.
Women who are more likely to develop a yeast infection include those who:
- Take antibiotics, which kill “good” bacteria along with the troublemakers
- Take birth control pills
- Take hormones or steroids
- Are pregnant
- Have diabetes
- Wear tight clothing
What are the most common symptoms of yeast infections?
A vaginal yeast infection may include these or other symptoms:
- Vaginal pain or soreness
- Pain during urination
- Itching or burning
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Thick, white vaginal discharge
- Unpleasant odor
How to sleep with a yeast infection
“Because yeast infection is a fungal attack on the body, it often causes irritation, discharge, and itchiness around the infected area that can be foul in odor and severely itchy,” says Christine Kingsley, advanced practice registered nurse and health and wellness director of the Connecticut-based Lung Institute.
Suffering from this condition often results in a damaged sleep schedule because it affects the entire body’s system, causing joint pain, extreme itchiness, and exhaustion, explains Kingsley. “Having to scratch excessively causes fragmented sleep, which further weakens immunity and makes it harder for the body to fight the infection,” she adds.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure you get the sleep you need to function at your best. Here are a few tips for getting a good night’s sleep while dealing with a yeast infection:
Sleep without underwear
“The friction of the genitals that the underwear causes will worsen the yeast infection, so sleeping without it could help the entire infected skin be relaxed and soothed,” says Kingsley. “As long as you do not move constantly, the feeling is a lot better than when wearing undergarments.” Bonus: Sleeping naked has a whole host of health benefits!
Use vaginal suppositories with tea tree oil
“Tea tree oil has an instant soothing relief on vaginal fungal infections as it is known to kill bad bacteria,” says Kingsley. “Inserting the suppository in the vagina overnight will help relieve the fungal itchiness.”
Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing
“Tight-fitting clothing can trap heat and moisture, which can make a yeast infection worse,” explains Sony Sherpa, MD, a holistic physician with organic wellness company Nature’s Rise. “Choose clothing made from natural fabrics such as cotton or linen to help keep your skin cool and dry.”
Practice good hygiene
“Be sure to clean your vulva and vagina regularly with mild soap and water,” suggests Sherpa. “Avoid using perfumed products or deodorants in the area as these can irritate the skin and make a yeast infection worse.”
“Douching can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in your vagina, which can make a yeast infection more likely,” says Sherpa. She recommends using only plain water and avoiding harsh cleansers or scented products.
Limit your sugar intake
“Too much sugar provides fuel for yeast to grow and multiply,” says Sherpa. (Here’s how to keep sugar from ruining your sleep.)
Use over-the-counter (OTC) medicines
VeryWell Health reviews the best OTC treatments for vaginal yeast infections in 2023. There are oral and topical options available, most of which are antifungals. Be sure to read and follow all instructions on the label.
Don’t use tampons while using a vaginal cream or suppository
Tampons can absorb the medication. Use pads instead if you get your period while you have a yeast infection. (Here are our best tips for sleeping on your period.)
Take a cool bath
Don’t scratch! You can relieve, or at least reduce, itching with a cold pack or a cool bath before bedtime.
Can a yeast infection affect sleep?
The pain, irritation, itchiness, and discomfort of a vaginal yeast infection can seriously affect and disrupt sleep.
Why do yeast infections feel itchier at night?
MedicalNewsToday says that although some of the conditions that cause vulvar itching may worsen at night, it’s more likely that the itchiness gets worse at bedtime because a person has fewer distractions. Without daytime diversions, the itchiness can seem more intense.
Does going commando help yeast infections?
Yes! As Kingsley explains, sleeping without underwear eliminates the friction of fabric and genitals, helping to relax and soothe the infected skin area.
Will ice help a yeast infection?
An ice pack or cool shower before bedtime can help reduce or relieve itching—but it won’t cure the infection itself.
When should I contact a doctor?
If the infection spreads to a larger area, or if you frequently experience yeast infections, then you should see your doctor and may need a prescription medication.
“When the affected area feels extremely itchy to the point of disrupting your daily activities, and rashes emerge out of the blue, you should immediately see your doctor—especially when you feel a burning sensation when urinating or when having sexual intercourse,” says Kingsley. “It is not normal to have such symptoms in the vagina, no matter how mild it is. Seek medical attention immediately when you experience constant itchiness or pain in the area.”
Urinary tract infections are another common condition that can disrupt sleep. Here’s how to sleep better with a UTI.