Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism due to the slowdown of the thyroid. But what does it mean, exactly, when a person suffering from hypothyroidism complains of being tired? It will actually depend on the individual, but chances are it is not the same kind of tired that the average person feels.
Before I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I began to experience severe bouts of fatigue. I was working a full-time job and would come home in the evening and be ready to go right to bed most nights. I would usually push through and stay awake until 9 or 10 in the evening, but it wouldn’t take long for me to fall into a deep sleep.
But on the nights when I just wanted to take a quick nap, I usually was down for the night anyway. Whether I stretched out on the couch or in bed, it became a struggle to wake back up enough to get to bed or get dressed for bed. I was so tired I couldn’t open my eyes long enough to get my body moving again.
Most nights, I would get more than eight hours of sleep, but then wake up still feeling exhausted. I had to resist the urge to crawl back into bed because I would definitely not make it to work on time.
Weekend mornings were the same. I loved playing tennis at the time and had signed up for a tennis clinic on the weekends. But week after week, I was too tired to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone play tennis. I had cancelled so often that my coach finally texted me and asked if I was okay. That’s when I began to think maybe I did need to find out what was wrong with me.
In addition to being physically exhausted, I was also not mentally sharp. I was getting plenty of sleep, but my brain still seemed to be moving in slow-motion most of the time. I had difficulty concentrating which made it tougher to get even simple or routine tasks done.
My work suffered because I was slower and began to make mistakes I had never made in the past. Simple errors I used to catch with ease were no longer caught.
Brain fog is another frustrating factor that can lead to forgetfulness. Recalling names or basic information became a struggle. Needing to work harder to remember simple things or longer to get things done took a toll and in the end led to more physical fatigue.
In my case, I found that eating foods with gluten contributed to my overwhelming fatigue. When my thyroid doctor suggested I try avoiding both gluten and dairy, I was unsure. But I also knew it was worth a try because I was feeling so terrible and sluggish.
It didn’t take long at all for that one change in diet to make a difference. I noticed almost an immediate change in how tired I felt (or didn’t feel), and that was enough to get me on track to finding more ways to improve my overall health.
There may be a trigger food (or foods) for you that contribute to your symptoms. Working with your hypothyroid doctor or a thyroid nutritionist can help you find ways to lessen your fatigue and start having more energy again. Fatigue can be one of the first symptoms to surface with hypothyroidism but also one of the first to lift once you start to feel better.
Unfortunately, fatigue is likely to be a factor for most people with hypothyroidism from time to time. Diet, stress and many other factors can play a part in how we feel from day to day.
The good news is that if you are being treated, the fatigue can become much more manageable. With the right medication, diet and treating yourself well, you can find ways to minimize fatigue and have more energy every day.
You still might run into days where it’s difficult to get up and go in the morning or you want to collapse in the evening. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Take a step back and look for a possible cause. Sometimes you won’t find one and you’ll just have to try again the next day.
If you start feeling excessively tired for long periods of time, it may be time to check in with a specialized thyroid doctor. The two of you should be able to figure out the cause and get you back on track.
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