Is Your Sluggish Thyroid Affecting Your Sleep? How to Tell and What You Can Do

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woman with insomnia

You are dragging all day long, yet when it's finally time to turn in for the night, you can't sleep.

What gives? It could be an underactive thyroid.

Hypothyroidism occurs when this all-important gland is not working as well as it should or could be. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormones to keep all of your organs functioning normally. Signs that yours is sluggish may include: fatigue, lack of energy, excessive daytime sleepiness, weight gain, dry skin, constipation, and hair loss. In addition, hypothyroidism can affect your ability to get a good night's sleep in several ways.

Night Sweats

Some people with hypothyroidism may experience drenching night sweats—the kind that involve changing your sheets and your pajamas. Treating the underactive gland may help, but it's also a good idea to keep your bedroom chilly, dark and cave-like. This promotes healthy sleep and also keeps you cool enough to ward off some night sweats.

Sleep Apnea

Hypothyroidism can lead to sleep apnea, which is characterized by pauses in breathing during slumber. How does that happen? An underactive thyroid may weaken the respiratory muscles and decrease lung function, causing sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, you are not getting a good night's sleep. You likely have difficulty staying asleep and your bed partner probably ribs you to stop snoring all night long. A thorough evaluation may be warranted. Treating your underactive thyroid and possibly the sleep apnea can make a big difference in your sleep habits and overall quality of life.

Insomnia

Yes, an underactive thyroid gland can make you feel tired all day, but some of the medications used to treat hypothyroidism may result in insomnia or the inability to fall and stay asleep. Talk to your doctor about your medication including when you take it to see if it's playing a role in your sleeplessness. Tweaking your regimen may improve your sleep.

Anxiety

When you don't feel well, you worry. If you have been experiencing some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, you could be concerned about your health, and that may keep you awake at night. Talk to your doctor about your concerns. He or she may test your blood levels of thyroid hormones to see if your thyroid gland is working as it should be. If it is underactive, treatment will help you feel better and relieve some of your anxiety so that you sleep more soundly.

Once you determine that your sleeplessness is linked to your thyroid and begin treatment, you can also take some other more general steps for a better night's sleep.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will help keep your energy up all day long. Don't eat a large meal before bed as that can keep you awake. As the adage goes, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

Skip the Night Cap

A glass of wine or cocktail may help you fall asleep faster, but it makes it harder to stay asleep.

Keep a Set Schedule

Choose and stick to firm wake and bed times—even on weekends and holidays.

Exercise

Getting regular exercise throughout the day can help you sleep better at night. If exercise stimulates you too much, make sure you do it well in advance of your bedtime.

Cut Out Caffeine in the PM

Caffeine can help you get through the workday, but if you drink it past 2 PM, it may sabotage your sleep.

Know When to Give In

If you can't sleep, get out of bed and go do something in another room. Your bed should only be used for  sleep and sex.

Always discuss any sleep issues with your doctor. He or she will be able to determine if it is a result of your hypothyroidism, its treatment or something else.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 20

  1. The American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. Thyroid FAQs. http://endocrinediseases.org/thyroid/faq.shtml#q26

  2. National Sleep Foundation. Healthy Sleep Tips. http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips

  3. The Endocrine Society. What Does the Thyroid Gland Do? http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do/what-does-the-thyroid-gland-do

  4. Mayo Clinic. Hypothyroidism Treatment. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/basics/treatment/con-20021179

  5. American Thyroid Association. What Is Hypothyroidism? http://www.thyroid.org/what-is-hypothyroidism

  6. UptoDate. Hypothyroidism Underactive Thyroid Beyond the Basics. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/hypothyroidism-underactive-thyroid-beyond-the-basics

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