Sleep problems like insomnia can be caused by many different factors, including chronic pain, acid reflux, and depression. But did you know that your issue could also be triggered by a small gland called the thyroid?
The thyroid is responsible for regulating an important hormone that keeps your body warm and helps organs function properly. If your thyroid isn’t working correctly, it can cause a lot of problems, including getting in the way of your sleep.
There are two types of thyroid conditions: overactive or under-active. How the gland impacts your sleep depends on which condition you have.
When your gland produces too much thyroid hormone, this is known as hyperthyroidism.
The condition causes different bodily functions to speed up, leading you to feel wired and jittery. Symptoms may also include feeling anxious and experiencing a racing pulse, making it hard to get into a relaxed state.
As a result, people who have hyperthyroidism may have trouble sleeping. When the condition first occurs, it might not seem like a problem since an overactive thyroid makes it seem as though you have endless energy, thanks to a revving metabolism. That sensation is short-lived, however, and as time goes on, you’ll start to feel really tired.
When the thyroid gland is under-active and not producing enough thyroid hormone, this is known as hypothyroidism. The lack of this important hormone causes processes throughout the body to slow down, making you feel tired more easily.
For people with this condition, even a solid seven to nine hours of sleep at night doesn’t shake the constant sense of exhaustion. Some sufferers also report feeling like they are stuck in a fog or haze, without the ability to think sharply.
The good news is that for many people with a thyroid disorder, medication can help reduce negative symptoms and improve sleep issues. See your doctor if you’re concerned: A simple blood test can determine if you have the appropriate levels of thyroid hormones in your body.
Though there is not one direct symptom of hypothyroidism, outside weight gain or fatigue patients may experience:
● Increased sensitivity to cold
● Dry skin
● Puffy face
● Muscle weakness
● Elevated blood cholesterol level
● Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
● Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
● Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
● Thinning hair
● Slowed heart rate
● Impaired memory
Symptoms to Look For
Though symptoms vary, risk factors can help a patient narrow down health issues paired with the following:
Women older than age 60
Already have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, both chronic inflammatory conditions
Have a family history of thyroid disease
Received radiation to your neck or upper chest
Have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the past six months
Without proper diagnosis and treatment, untreated hypothyroidism can cause additional health problems including joint pain, infertility, and heart disease. It can also lead to neurological conditions like depression, anxiety, and forgetfulness.
Unfortunately, for some patients, fatigue persists, even after treatment for the thyroid condition. But fatigue does not always indicate a complete hypothyroid issue. High-quality sleep is defined for adults as 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. Daytime fatigue can be combated with at least a minimum amount of sleep consistently.
When hypothyroidism is present, there may be changes within the upper airway that lead to difficulties breathing during sleep. These difficulties commonly lead to sleep apnea. Like hypothyroidism, sleep apnea causes excessive daytime sleepiness, apathy, and feeling lethargic. With both disorders common and similar, testing both is the smart step towards treatment.
The proper stage of sleep can include a cool, dark location that contains a sound machine or sound-free depending on the preference of the individual. Establishing a regular time to go to sleep and to wake up, even on weekends and holidays, is important as well.
Investing in an alarm separate from a cell phone can also help create an environment of fewer distractions. If you’ve taken these steps to improve your sleep but are still feeling low on energy during the day, you may suffer from sleep apnea along with your hypothyroidism.
Sleep apnea causes your breathing to become shallow or stop completely during sleep. The pause can occur for 10 seconds or longer and in extreme cases can occur 30 times or more in one hour.
Do You Have Sleep Apnea?
A first step to determine if you suffer from sleep apnea is talking to your physician. It is important to identify the source of snoring or uninterrupted sleep. Without treatment, additional exhaustion and fatigue will negatively affect your under-active thyroid.
Keep a Sleep Journal
The next step would be a sleep diary. “In the diary, record important bits of information such as what time you went to bed, how long it took to fall asleep, how long you slept, how difficult it was to wake in the morning, how tired you felt the next day, and list amount of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages consumed during the day as well as medications you may have taken.”
A sleep study may be the best route to link sleepiness. Though the type of sleep study varies by a patient’s symptoms, healthcare providers will monitor your sleep either in a lab or at your home using portable home sleep apnea testing equipment. Completing a sleep study can also enhance your quality of life from hypothyroidism which already is most likely taking away a full night’s rest.
If you live in Alaska and are ready to take back your sleep, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic and receive a free 10-minute phone consultation with a sleep educator who can help you determine if a sleep study is right for you.