The thyroid is a very important gland in our bodies that releases hormones to help control metabolism. The hormones that the thyroid releases help in regulating our breathing, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, body temperature, menstrual cycles in women, nervous system, and more. When the thyroid is not producing the correct number of hormones that we need, our bodies may feel out of whack, producing a host of symptoms.
Fatigued but not sleeping?
In hypothyroidism, the body slows down with the decrease production of thyroid hormone, causing some to become more tired in the process. Hypothyroidism also affects our slow-wave sleep, or what we would call “refreshing” sleep. Fatigue can develop slowly or come on suddenly, making it hard to even lift your head off the pillow. Some patients may not be able to make it through the day without multiple naps or are sleeping longer than usual and still feeling exhausted.
But not only can thyroid disorders lead to feelings of extreme tiredness, but they can also play a role in sleep disorders. Hypothyroidism can increase your risk for sleep apnea due to respiratory change, nerve or muscle change, chemical imbalance, and even enlargement of the tongue.
The importance of sleep
As you know, hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases go through periods of flare ups, which are times of worsening and intensification of symptoms due to an added stressor on an already unhealthy immune system. Symptoms related to a flare up are generally those already seen with the disease, but the symptoms are much more intense.
One of the most common causes of flare ups is lack of sleep, which is why it is so important to make rest a priority. With the body in autoimmune dysfunction, it can be hard to get good quality sleep. So, listen to your body and when it is ready to sleep, take the opportunity to do so. This will help restore healthy bodily function and immune response.
What you can do
Some good sleep hygiene practices include:
- Choosing a bedtime that allows for adequate time to fall asleep and wake up, while getting in the proper amount of sleep each night. Sticking to the same bedtime even on the weekends is beneficial.
- Turn off all electronics one hour before going to sleep.
- Choosing a nightly routine to help calm you down. For example, a hot cup of tea before bed or a thyroid sleep meditation.
- Adequate aerobic exercise can have a positive effect on sleep health. Make sure it is at least five hours before bedtime, as exercising too close to sleep can keep you awake.
- Aromatherapy may be useful for some people. Smelling the same scent every night may add to the healthy sleep routine.
If you are still having trouble sleeping, consider seeing a specialized thyroid doctor to help fine tune your approach to optimizing your sleep and thyroid.