Stress? Not so much…
Anxiety? I don’t think so…
Could it be diabetes? Sorry, my blood sugar levels are normal!
If you have ruled out all the common causes of sleeplessness, then perhaps it’s time to dig deeper into some of the rarer causes.
Most people who are not able to get enough sleep tend to only search for the cause of insomnia at a superficial level and fail to consider some of the lesser-known causes, such as a thyroid abnormality.
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And this is why they often fail to pinpoint exactly why they are not able to get decent sleep, and as a consequence often resort to using sedative drugs.
Before you too fall into this trap and decide to take such a step, take a few minutes and allow me to educate you on the links between thyroid and sleep.
You see, it could indeed be your thyroid that is responsible for the poor sleep quality you are experiencing. I understand it could be difficult to believe that thyroid problems can have an effect on your sleep, but, it’s a fact that it absolutely can. And these are the ways that sometimes pesky wee gland can mess with your sleep…
How Does the Thyroid Gland Affect your Sleep And Cause Insomnia?
1. There’s a Relationship Between Hyperthyroidism and Sleep Apnea
The thyroid gland can be responsible for sleep disturbances due to sleep apnea if not functioning properly.
What happens, in this case, is if your thyroid gland is malfunctioning, it can result in an imbalance in the levels of thyroid hormones including thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4).
The fluctuating levels of these hormones affect the apnea-hypopnea index (an index used to indicate the severity of sleep apnea) and this fluctuation can mean you are more likely to wake up in the night feeling breathless or like you’re choking.
Abnormal thyroid hormone levels can also lower the oxygen saturation in the blood due to which the frequency of choking or gasping while sleeping can increase.
The effects of thyroid abnormalities can worsen the sleep apnea symptoms and prevent you from enjoying an undisturbed sleep.
2. The Thyroid Can Interfere With Metabolic Pathways
Another way the thyroid gland can interfere with your sleep is by altering the body’s metabolic pathways.
This is because your thyroid gland controls most of the metabolic functions that occur in almost all of the body’s cells. So, any imbalance in the thyroid has an adverse impact on these systems, which just so happens to control your sleep.
For example, women who suffer from hypothyroidism may have lower levels of estrogen. This is a common cause of troubled sleep patterns in women.
3. It Can Mess With the Circadian Rhythm
You may not know this, but the thyroid gland also controls your body’s circadian rhythm. If you’re unlucky enough to have suffered from insomnia for any length of time and have tried several methods already to manage your problem without much success, then you’ll be aware of what the circadian rhythm is.
It is the body’s internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycles and allows you to stay awake during the daytime and sleep at night.
Research studies have provided evidence to show that the thyroid plays a role in regulating the body’s internal clock as well as REM sleep. Even the secretion and release of thyroid-stimulating hormones and thyroxine follows a circadian rhythm.
A disturbed thyroid gland can alter the pattern of the circadian rhythm thus resulting in a disrupted sleep-wake cycle.
4. Menopausal Women Have an Increased Risk
If you are a woman of menopausal age you are more like to develop insomnia, particularly if your thyroid gland is not functioning efficiently, or if you are suffering from hypothyroidism.
The effects of thyroid gland inefficiency can be more severe in menopausal women. The lower levels of estrogen due to hypothyroidism can trigger menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, irritation, excessive sweating, and so on - and there is really no need to explain how difficult it can be to get some sleep when you are experiencing such disturbing symptoms!
This is how a thyroid problem at menopausal age can cause you to spend countless nights feeling restless without getting any sleep.
5. What About Men?
You guys didn’t think you’d get off lightly, did you? We’ve discussed how thyroid problems can interfere with the sleep pattern in women, but that doesn’t mean men are safe in this regard.
Unfortunately, thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can have a similar impact on men as well.
Abnormal levels of thyroid hormones can trigger a chain of events, which result in an imbalance in the production of other hormones in your body.
And testosterone is one of them.
The lower testosterone production caused due to compromised thyroid functions can undermine the quality of your sleep.
6. Higher Risk For Night-Shift Workers
If you are working night shifts, your chances of developing insomnia and other sleep disorders are pretty high.
And on top of that, if you also suffer from a thyroid problem, your sleep quality can deteriorate further.
Believe me, this is quite likely to happen! Research studies have shown that people who work night shifts are more prone to develop thyroid diseases.
This only goes to show that the link between sleeplessness and thyroid can be much worse in night shift workers.
And this also means that the need for timely intervention like checking your thyroid hormone levels is also higher if you work night shifts.
7. And Then There’s The Adrenal Gland…
The adrenal gland has a deep connection with the thyroid gland. Both of these glands work together, and one determines how the other functions and what amount of hormones they produce.
This means when your thyroid gland is not functioning properly, it sends wrong signals to the adrenal gland, meaning it can lose the ability to secrete normal levels of hormones.
It is the cortisol secreted by the adrenal gland that is the biggest worry. When your thyroid gland is out of balance, the adrenal gland may produce too much cortisol, which, in turn, can make it difficult for you to drop off to sleep.
This is because cortisol can trick your body into believing that it is daytime and hence, you need to stay alert. This wrong signal due to cortisol will prevent you from falling asleep.
8. Not To Forget… Stress
How can you stay calm and relaxed when your adrenal glands are producing lots of cortisol?
Well… This is just another way by which the thyroid gland interferes with the adrenal functions and causes insomnia.
The higher production of cortisol can increase mental stress and anxiety, which are two perfect states that when combined together add up to unbearable sleeplessness.
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Here’s another player that spoils your sleep, all thanks to the improperly functioning thyroid.
Thyroid problems like hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can make it difficult for you to lose weight. It can lower your body’s metabolism thus reducing the rate at which your body burns fats.
As a result, you will have a tendency to gain weight in spite of controlling your diet. And once obesity kicks in, your sleep problem can become worse.
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How this happens is simple: weight gain contributes to the symptoms of sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder characterized by frequent awakening with gasping for breath and prevents you from getting a sound sleep.
10. Myxedema: The Hidden Link
When we talk about thyroid problems and sleep, the issue is not limited to hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Other thyroid diseases like myxedema can also make it difficult for you to sleep well. Myxedema is actually a complication, or a more severe form of, hypothyroidism that is characterized by abnormal changes in the skin and other tissues.
It has been found that the incidence of sleep disturbances due to sleep apnea is higher in patients who suffer from myxedema.
Seek Intervention to Take Back Control of Your Sleep
Now you may have found out why you have not been able to sleep well - it could have been your thyroid gland that has been causing your sleep issues all along.
The functions of this gland are so diverse that it is difficult to judge and diagnose the problem on the basis of the symptoms alone.
However, since you now know that a thyroid disorder can be linked to sleep problems in so many different ways, you have just one more thing to do:
Get the levels of your thyroid hormones tested. In case the results reveal that you do suffer from hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or any other thyroid abnormality, your doctor will ensure you’ll receive the proper treatment.
Once you have managed to regain control of your thyroid function, you should see an improvement in the quality of your sleep. Imagine the relief and satisfaction to finally get a sound sleep of 8 hours on your comfortable mattress every night!