AN INTRODUCTION TO SLEEP & THYROID ISSUES

Sleep is complicated. Thyroid health is complicated. Put them together and it’s certainly not a simple problem to solve!

Consider this podcast episode and the notes below as a basic introduction to the core elements of thyroid & sleep issues and use it as a spring board to dive into areas of interest or challenge for you.

Core issues with sleep for the thyroid patient

At the outset you need to know that you’ll want to make sure you’re working on your overall thyroid health with a knowledgable doctor and or naturopath to make sure your thyroid hormone levels are optimal and if you have autoimmune issues, that your address that too via diet/lifestyle.

Some of the thyroid related sleep problems won’t be resolved if your thyroid hormones are way out of whack.

If you’re not sure what tests to ask for, check out this thyroid basics page for more info.

Click on the various links ofr more info.

Hyperthyroid Symptoms that impact on sleep.

  • Racing heart
  • Anxiousness/nervousness
  • Can’t calm down.
  • Night terrors
  • Exhaustion/muscle weakness
  • Hyperactivity.

Hypothyroid Symptoms that impact on sleep

Hormone related problems

You need these different hormones to be in the correct balance for good sleep. You might want to listen to the recent episode with Sophie Shepherd all about hormones and thyroid.

Estrogen

  • helps with anxiety
  • Lack of estrogen leads to hot flashes (menopause)
  • Estrogen dominance is linked to hypothyroidism.

Progesterone

  • Calming – produces the neurotransmitter GABA

Melatonin

  • Involved in thyroid function
  • Sleep ‘hormone’
  • For excellent, in depth information from a  melatonin researcher, follow Doris Loh on Facebook.
  • Eating cherries at night might help increase melatonin! 

Cortisol

  • Low blood sugar can cause cortisol to spike causing you to wake up in a panic/out of a dream.
  • High levels of cortisol are connected to high TSH (ie being in a hypothyroid state)
  • Chronic stress leads to increased cortisol leads to increase TSH leads to hypothyroidism.

Difficulty falling asleep

  • Type A personality (or a ‘thyroid personality?) may contribute to difficulty falling asleep as it comes with … overthinking, anxiety, stress, HPA axis activated which leads to insomnia)
  • Overthinking
  • Overtired
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine – avoid after lunch
  • Digesting food – if you’re eating things that cause tummy upset or if you’re eating too late.
  • High cortisol at bedtime or too low – may indicate adrenal issue.
  • GABA and melatonin can be out of balance

Night waking

  • Low blood sugar – activates the stress response -> adrenaline/cortisol -> wake up (can be awoken in a panic). Also adrenaline naturally rises 2-3am. If waking 2.30-4am can be a sign of low blood sugar. 
    • Drink salted orange juice 30 mp before bed (Forefront Health Article)
    • Have a high protein/fat snack before bed and next to your bed – eg almonds, boiled egg.
  • Liver issues can also be the cause of night waking as your body is processing foods, drink, chemicals overnight. This also connects with the info in the next point.
  • Chinese Medicine body clock: This is the idea in Chinese medicine that at different times of the day/night the body is dealing with different organs/processes eg
    • 9pm-11pm – Endocrine & metabolic balancing/thyroid & adrenals
    • 11pm – 1am Gallbladder 
    • 1m to 3pm Liver –  Key emotions: anger/stress, resentment. Physically: processing alcohol, food. 
    • 3am to 5pm Lung
    • Acupuncture may help
    • Sleep 11-3 most important for aging well.

“Solutions”

Baring in mind that there are no quick fixes and you may need to experiment overtime with different ideas.

  • Get thyroid hormones optimal (whether hyper or hypo) – sleep issues can be a symptom of undiagnosed thyroid problems.
  • See doctor
  • Sleep study? Rule out sleep apnoea.

Supplements/herbs that might help

You should work with a health practitioner before taking supplements. These are ones that I’ve either come across in research or have taken myself.

This podcast on herbs for thyroid is worth a listen to too, with Ashleigh Mythen.

  • Melatonin
  • Magnesium
  • Ashwagandha
  • Passion Flower
  • Lemon Balm
  • L-Theanine
  • NAC
  • Serenity softgels
  • Essential oils (not a supplement)

Preparing for bed

  • Have a routine
  • Get morning sun
  • Be active during the day
  • Regular get up/go to bed times – even when tired.
  • Red lights after dark
  • No caffeine in the afternoon/evening
  • Watch what you eat
  • Alcohol
  • Eat 3 hours before bed
  • Winding down – mindless TV
  • Bath – magnesium flakes with calming oil
  • Sauna?

Sleep Environment

  • Sleep routine – bath, book, bed.
  • Cool room (18C/65F)
  • Dark room
  • Eye mask
  • No electronics/ phone out – no notifications
  • Diffuse calming essential oils eg Lavender Peace, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Lavender, Wild Orange, chamomile, magnolia
  • Journal next to bed – get your ideas out of your head!
  • Read a good book, not a great book
  • Meditation apps
  • Breathing techniques

Further reading

https://www.forefronthealth.com/hypothyroidism-and-insomnia/

https://thyroidadvisor.com/thyroid-insomnia-relationship/

https://thyroidadvisor.com/could-your-thyroid-be-causing-sleep-problems/

https://www.thyrosisters.com/supplements-for-thyroid-health/

http://www.turningpointeacu.com/blog/2017/2/19/waking-up-at-the-same-time-each-night-the-chinese-medicine-body-clock-explains-why

https://stopthethyroidmadness.com/2013/09/14/three-sleeping-issues/

18 Things Thyroid Patients Can Do To Beat Insomnia

related podcast episodes

If you enjoyed this episode and are looking for similar discussions, check out these episodes:

#50 Is there a thyroid personality?

#28 Herbs for thyroid support

#29 Calm your nervous system.

#64 Hormones & thyroid.

 

 

 

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Suspect you have a thyroid issue? PLEASE trust your instincts and get it thoroughly checked out with your health practitioner. This thyroid basics page has an overview of what tests to ask for and an affiliate link to use a private lab if your doctor won't order them.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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