The Thyroid Sleep Connection

sleep and thyroid

By Kent Caylor, RPSGT

We all get a poor night’s sleep occasionally, but for some, this can be a nightly occurrence. This may lead to fatigue and sleepiness, which can impact our performance during the day. Fatigue can have several causes, including both emotional and physical causes. While there are a few practical things you can do to combat fatigue, like eating healthier foods, exercising, and reducing stress, for many, these things provide little relief.

If your fatigue is accompanied by feeling sluggish, weight gain, dry skin, and constipation, you might have a thyroid disorder. This is because your thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate your metabolism. Every cell in your body relies on your thyroid gland to distribute the necessary hormones so they can function properly. Too many of these hormones and your body goes into overdrive, too few, and you’re run down and sluggish.

According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 % of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime. Women are 7 times more likely to have a thyroid condition than men. Additionally, as many as 60% of people with thyroid disease are unaware of any symptoms.

What Causes Your Thyroid to Misfire?

One major cause is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, resulting in hypothyroidism. Graves disease is another autoimmune disease and results in hyperthyroidism. Other causes include certain medications, iodine deficiency, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery, and stress.

How Thyroid Disease Impacts Your Sleep

Thyroid disease can adversely affect your sleep. If you have hyperthyroidism, your body is in overdrive, preventing restful sleep. If you have hypothyroidism, your body just can’t seem to get the rest it needs.

Hypothyroidism is also associated with obstructive sleep apnea. This relationship is poorly understood however there have been some cases where thyroid hormone replacement therapy has improved sleep apnea.

If your fatigue is accompanied by feeling sluggish, weight gain, dry skin, and constipation, you might have a thyroid disorder.

How do I know if I have a Thyroid problem?

Because many of the symptoms of thyroid disease are also symptoms of other conditions, it is best to consult your health care practitioner about a blood test specifically for thyroid disease.

Is thyroid disease hereditary?

Certain forms, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and Graves disease can be. Therefore, if you have a family history it would be a good idea to consult your health care practitioner, even if you have no symptoms.

Can I function without my thyroid gland?

Sometimes it’s necessary to surgically remove your thyroid. Many people will require prescription thyroid hormone replacement afterward. This will be monitored on an on-going basis.

I have sleep apnea, should I also have my thyroid checked?

Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea, such as being tired all the time, depression, and weight gain are also symptoms of thyroid disease. Talk with your doctor about your thyroid; a simple blood test can show if it’s functioning properly.

Author’s Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Thyroid Association

Kent Caylor, RPSGT is a sleep technologist at MedBridge Healthcare. This article was republished with permission. MedBridge Healthcare partners with hospitals and physician practices to offer comprehensive, fully-integrated sleep disorders services. Find out more here.

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