If you often find yourself fatigued and unable to get through the day without a midday nap or an extra cup of coffee, then you might have a medical condition known as hypothyroidism. This illness is known to affect one’s energy level, but the symptoms can be eased with better nighttime sleep.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the front of your neck. It’s function is to secrete hormones, including T3 (or triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which control the body’s temperature, metabolism, and heart rate. The thyroid itself is controlled by TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which is produced in the pituitary gland in the brain.
Thyroid disorders run the gamut from minor problems like an enlarged gland, or goiter, to major, life-threatening issues, such as cancer. The most common thyroid issue relates to the abnormal production of the T3 and T4 hormones. Too much of these hormones results in a condition known as hyperthyroidism while too little causes hypothyroidism.
Thyroid problems can cause havoc in your life, resulting in a variety of symptoms, including:
- Sleep problems
- Weight change
- Swollen or enlarged neck
- Mental wellness troubles, such as depression or anxiety
- Problems with hair and skin
- Bowel discomfort
- Persistent pain
- Changes in cholesterol level
- Vision problems
Issues related to thyroid hormone levels, however, can be managed sufficiently if you seek medical advice and follow the recommended treatment.
If your thyroid produces an insufficient amount of the T3 and T4 hormones, you may feel excessively tired. Your body requires a certain amount of these hormones to maintain its energy levels, so a drop in thyroid hormones can cause you to feel weak and tired, even upon waking after a full night’s sleep.
If not treated, hypothyroidism can cause other health problems, including an increase in cholesterol levels as well as an increased likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke.
In addition to causing fatigue, people with hypothyroidism are more likely to be diagnosed with a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder where the body ceases to breathe during sleep, caused either by an obstruction in the airway or an issue with brain signals. Each time the body fails to breathe, the body will be forced awake – either consciously or unconsciously – to resume air intake. This cycle repeats itself throughout the night, sometimes many times an hour, disturbing one’s ability to gain a restful night’s sleep.
Hypothyroidism may also affect Stage 4 sleep in other ways, thereby further contributing to daytime exhaustion. Stage 4 is a deep sleep that is restorative in nature, repairing the body from the effects of daily stress and restoring energy to the individual. This stage of the sleep cycle occurs earlier in the night and consists of between ten and fifteen percent of all sleep. It is required to help the body with normal functioning, so even if you get more sleep overall, you will not awake feeling rested if you miss out on Stage 4 sleep. If hypothyroidism begins to interfere with your Stage 4 sleep, you will not only feel daytime exhaustion, but may also experience weight gain, brain fog, and other symptoms.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism are not necessarily destined to a life of exhaustion. There are steps that can be taken to help improve the overpowering feelings of fatigue and live a normal life.
To improve one’s sleep, it is necessary to increase thyroid hormones to their normal level. See a medical professional who will help you manage your hormone levels. Until you get your system under control, you may have periods of feeling over-stimulated and even experience insomnia. Talk with your doctor if this occurs, so that he can lower your medication dose so that your thyroid hormones are within the normal range.
Beyond medical intervention, there are some things that you can do to help get a good night’s sleep, beginning in the evening hours before you head to the bedroom.
- Eat an early dinner. Large late night meals can interfere with your sleep as can consuming something unusual or spicy dishes. Also, avoid caffeine later in the day, as it can keep you awake. If you do get hungry in the evening, try having a small, healthy snack instead, which will keep your blood sugar balanced through the night.
- Keep the lights dimmed. As you approach bedtime, try to dim the lights and remove any electronic stimulation, such as the television, computer, or smartphone. Darkness actually stimulates the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates wakefulness.
- Relax and unwind. People often complain that stress is what keeps them awake at night. Instead, they tend to lie awake, staring at the ceiling, and thinking about responsibilities and problems. Instead, try to address your stress prior to bedtime. Make a list of tasks to tackle in the morning and find a way to relax. Perhaps take a hot bath, read a book, or practice yoga.
- Create an ideal bedroom. Rest will not come easily in a room that is not designed for a relaxing night of sleep. The room should be dark with light-blocking window treatments and at a cool temperature around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose an organic mattress that make you comfortable and supportive.
The Thyroid and Sleep
Problems with the thyroid, such as a lowered level of T3 and T4 hormones, could cause problems with sleep and a decreased energy level. However, not all sleep problems indicate a thyroid problem. See a physician if you are experiencing constant fatigue during the day or trouble sleeping at night. Your doctor will be able to address any potential problems and determine if your thyroid is behind your sleep issues.