Updated at: 11-01-2022 - By: Jane Brody

Located near the front of your neck, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that produces thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones, thyroxine, and triiodothyronine govern the body’s energy expenditure. A wide range of physiological activities, including respiration and heart rate, digestive processes, and body temperature, are influenced by these hormones.

Thyroid hormone levels must be kept in check in order to avoid harmful side effects from either too much or too little of these hormones. Thyroid abnormalities can also cause sleep disturbances. Certain sleep disturbances are associated with thyroid abnormalities like hypothyroidism (underactive) and hyperthyroidism (overactive).

What Causes Thyroid Disease?

An important aspect of human life is controlled by a master circadian clock, which is housed in a brain region known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus.

For example, the SCN regulates your sleep-wake cycle by producing a variety of hormones that keep your body in a state of equilibrium. Thyroid hormones are released when the thyroid is stimulated by thyrotropin, one of these hormones. Thyrotropin production and general circadian rhythm may be disrupted by an overactive or underactive thyroid.

A hypothyroid or underactive thyroid is a medical disorder in which the thyroid gland fails to generate adequate hormones. Hypothyroidism affects one in every twenty adults over the age of 12 in the United States, according to current estimates. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is commonly used to treat these people.

An overactive thyroid affects one out of every one hundred people in the United States. When the thyroid generates an excessive amount of hormones, this syndrome occurs. Medications to reduce thyroid hormone levels are frequently recommended to patients with hyperthyroidism.

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Some thyroid problems can be traced back to an underlying autoimmune condition. In certain cases, the body’s cells will be mistaken by the immune system for pathogens, and they will be attacked. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by Graves’ disease, while hypothyroidism can be caused by Hashimoto’s disease. Diabetics with Type 1 diabetes are also at risk for hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

Even in women without a history of thyroid disease, pregnancy has been related to thyroid difficulties. The thyroid hormone levels of both mother and child will be monitored on a regular basis by doctors. The thyroid can be overactive or underactive for up to a year after giving birth to certain women. Pregnant women with thyroid issues are advised to seek treatment prior to conception.

Finally, thyroid health may be influenced by iodine intake. Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to make hormones, hence a diet low or high in iodine might result in thyroid illness.

Can Your Thyroid Cause Sleep Problems?

Having a thyroid disease has been connected to sleep issues in the past. Due to arousals from nervousness or irritability and persistent weariness, hyperthyroidism (overactive) can cause problems sleeping. Night sweats and frequent urination are other symptoms of an overactive thyroid that can interfere with a good night’s sleep.

Hypothyroid (underactive) people, on the other hand, may have difficulty sleeping due to their inability to tolerate the cold at night or their discomfort with joint or muscle pain. According to several research, people with an underactive thyroid are more likely to suffer from insomnia, a longer sleep onset (the time it takes to fall asleep), and lower sleep duration during the night. Those who are younger, have a lower BMI, and are female are all at greater risk for hypothyroidism-related sleep issues.

It is possible that hypothyroidism can produce hypersomnia, or an insatiable desire to sleep, or occasional lapses in sleep. Hypothyroidism, an endocrine system issue, is thought to be the most common cause of hypersomnia, but there are other possible causes. Sleep-related hypoventilation, or extremely slow or shallow breathing, might be misinterpreted for untreated hypothyroidism.

Restless legs syndrome may be exacerbated by unbalanced thyroid function (RLS). When the body is at rest, people with this disease experience uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings in their legs. Nighttime or right before falling asleep is the most common time for RLS symptoms to appear. RLS can cause considerable sleep deprivation and daytime deficits because of its disruptive nature. It is believed that an overactive thyroid might contribute to a condition known as night terrors, which is characterized by frightening outbursts of terror that occur in the middle of the night.

Thyroid illness risk may be influenced by how well you sleep.

More sleep may increase the chance of hyperthyroidism, but too much sleep may increase the risk of both hyperactive and underactive thyroid function, according to one study. People with lower immune systems are more at risk of having thyroid dysfunction if they don’t get adequate sleep.

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When to See a Doctor

Many patients with hypothyroidism are unaware of their condition for years since the disease progresses so slowly. Your doctor will likely prescribe additional tests because it has many of the same symptoms as a wide variety of other medical disorders. In the case of hyperthyroidism, a number of blood tests are required to provide a definitive diagnosis. The signs of hyperthyroidism, such as a loss of appetite and social disengagement, might be misinterpreted for depression or dementia in elderly adults.

Thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and thyrotropin numbers may be evaluated to identify whether your thyroid is hyperactive or underactive by these additional blood tests. It is possible to give the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine for hypothyroidism patients, who will be monitored for improvement in thyroid levels six to eight weeks after beginning treatment. Methimazole or another anti-thyroid drug may be provided if hyperthyroidism is suspected.

Pregnant women have an increased chance of having thyroid disorders, hence thyroid testing is frequently required. As both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause infertility, these tests may also be recommended for those who are seeking reproductive treatment as a result.

Make an appointment with your doctor if you feel a lump or swelling on the side of your throat. This could be the first indication of thyroid cancer, which affects approximately 47,000 adults each year. Other signs of thyroid cancer include difficulty breathing or swallowing, as well as an abnormally hoarse voice. You may be more susceptible to thyroid cancer if you have an inherited disease or were exposed to radiation as a youngster.

Tips for Better Sleep With Thyroid Issues

If you have thyroid problems and can’t sleep, there are some things you may do to help yourself sleep better.

For many, getting the correct temperature in the bedroom is critical. The ideal temperature for most people to sleep at is 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius). Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, on the other hand, might result in night sweats and decreased cold tolerance, respectively, in persons who have a thyroid disorder. If you have thyroid problems, you may find that your ideal temperature falls outside of the range of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6-19.4 degrees Celsius).

Whether or not you have thyroid disease, basic sleep hygiene can help you sleep better. The term “sleep hygiene” refers to a set of behaviors and routines aimed at increasing the quality, quantity, and duration of sound sleep. Avoiding electronic gadgets for up to an hour before night, sleeping with soothing music playing, gentle stretching, and other relaxing activities are a few of the many suggestions.

Sleep hygiene is also influenced by a balanced diet. It’s advisable to have light snacks rather than heavy meals before going to sleep. When it comes to iodine intake, those with thyroid problems need to be very careful because too much or too little iodine in the diet might influence thyroid activity. Pre-bedtime coffee and alcohol abstinence is advised, as these two substances have been shown to interfere with a good night’s sleep.

Could Your Thyroid Be Causing Your Sleep Issues?

In addition to sleep disturbances, thyroid disorders are associated with a slew of other symptoms. You may have a thyroid problem if you display any of these other symptoms.

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Hypothyroidism can also lead to joint or muscular pain, daytime sleepiness or weariness, and feeling cold.

  • Weight gain is a possible side effect.
  • The face has a lot of puffiness.
  • Constipation.
  • Hair loss.
  • The skin on my face is really dry.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Menstrual cycles that are too heavy or too irregular.

Additionally, hyperthyroidism can lead to irritability, nocturnal sweats, and frequent urination.

  • A rapid or uneven rate of heartbeat
  • A greater desire to consume food.
  • Inadvertent weight reduction.
  • Deficiency of muscle.
  • Anxious palms and fingertips.
  • Brittle hair.
  • Skin that is too thin to be seen.
  • Bowel habits or menstrual cycles may change.

What You Can Do

The presence or absence of a thyroid problem can be detected by a simple blood test.

Hypothyroidism can be treated with the thyroid hormone levothyroxine, which is available under the brand names Levo-T and Synthroid. You can take it every day to maintain a healthy level of thyroid hormones. You’ll need to see your doctor on a frequent basis to make sure you’re getting the proper amount of hormones as you become older.

The use of radioactive iodine may be recommended if you have hyperthyroidism. That can cause your thyroid gland to diminish in size. Preventing your body from producing too much hormone can be done by taking anti-thyroid medication. Hyperthyroidism is occasionally treated with beta-blockers, which have little effect on hormone levels. Pregnant women and others who are unable to take the medicine may choose for thyroid surgery, but this procedure is uncommon.

There are a few things you can do on your own to improve your quality of sleep if you have a thyroid problem

  • Sleep at a temperature that is just right for you. While 65 F is a nice starting point, it can be a little hard.
  • Establish a bedtime ritual. Relaxing music and activities, such as reading or taking a bath, can help you wind down. At least an hour before going to sleep, turn off all electronic gadgets.
  • Stay away from big meals before bedtime, and limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

Hypothyroidism symptoms can come on rapidly or gradually, depending on how fast or suddenly thyroid levels drop. Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed by a variety of symptoms. These are some examples:

  • The ability to feel cold.
  • Constipation.
  • The skin on my face is really dry.
  • Flimsy fingernails.
  • Hair thinning.
  • Excess weight growth without cause.
  • High levels of triglycerides in the blood.
  • Irritability.
  • Feminine insufficiency
  • Slowing of the heartbeat.
  • Unusual bleeding in the uterus.

Not all of these signs and symptoms must be present in order to make a diagnosis.

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Hyperthyroidism Symptoms

There are a variety of symptoms that might be present when the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone (a condition known as an overactive thyroid). These are some examples:

  • Sweating excessively.
  • Heat sensitivity.
  • Skin that is soft and supple.
  • An overabundance of desire.
  • Weight reduction
  • The state of mind fluctuates.
  • A fit of rage breaks out.
  • Irritability.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Restlessness.
  • Nervousness.
  • Unusual pattern of the heartbeat.
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • Palpitations.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Menstruation that is irregular or that is light and brief.
  • Puffy or overly protruding eyes.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Hair thinning.
  • Deficiency of muscle.
  • Tremor.

As previously stated, not all of these symptoms must be present in order to be diagnosed with the ailment in question.

Thyroid Dysfunction and Sleep Problems

If you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, it can affect your ability to sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In the same way that hypothyroidism affects many people, obstructive sleep apnea affects many people. In patients with obstructive sleep apnea, daytime fatigue, apathy, and feeling lethargic are common symptoms. Hypothyroidism shares many of these symptoms, making it difficult to tell the two conditions apart simply on a patient’s medical history and physical exam.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be more common in hypothyroid people due to a variety of reasons affecting respiration, such as nerve or muscle injury that affects breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea can be exacerbated by hypothyroidism, which can cause the tongue to grow (a condition known as macroglossia) or disrupt the muscles that keep the upper airway open during sleep. Another factor that contributes to obstructive sleep apnea in hypothyroidism patients is obesity.

Insomnia

Hypothyroidism and sleep apnea might cause insomnia in certain persons. Sudden awakenings from sleep can be caused by sleep apnea, which disrupts breathing. There may be frequent nighttime awakenings, especially in the early morning hours of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. There is a chance that your sleep will be light and unsatisfying.

The amount of time spent in bed may be extended because of the poor quality of sleep. Going to bed too early or too late can make it difficult to go off to sleep in the middle of the night. Chronic insomnia may result if a person spends more time in bed than is necessary to feel refreshed.

As a result, if you’re suffering from sleeplessness and also have indications of thyroid dysfunction, you might consider getting checked for sleep apnea.

Night Sweats

Night sweats are more common with hyperthyroidism because the body has a harder time controlling its temperature, and this can make sleeping more difficult. Night sweats are a frequent symptom of menopause. Sleep apnea and sleep apnea-related hypoventilation may also play a role.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Based on the findings of blood tests evaluating numerous indications of thyroid function, diagnosing and treating thyroid issues is rather simple. The asleep study can assist establish if sleep apnea is present in persons who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and show symptoms of the condition. A portable home sleep apnea testing device or a sleep lab monitor will be used by medical professionals to keep track of your sleep during a sleep study.

Even if they have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are being treated for it, patients who have persistent symptoms may want to request that their doctors run a blood test to check their thyroid levels. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most frequent treatment for sleep apnea. Oral appliances from dentists, surgical procedures, positioning therapy, and weight loss are some of the other options.

If you’re experiencing any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, it might be time to schedule a thyroid function test with your doctor. For the most part, it’s a good idea to check your thyroid-stimulating hormone levels (TSH). The levels of T3 and T4 may also be examined if this is extremely high, indicating that the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone. In cases of hyperthyroidism, the TSH level may be abnormally low, accompanied by elevated T3 and T3 levels.

However, hypothyroidism can be alleviated with thyroid hormone replacement if it is the cause of breathing or sleep problems. Synthroid is the most commonly prescribed medication for this condition (levothyroxine). Armor thyroid, which is derived from animal sources, is another option. As previously stated, surgery or radioactive iodine may be used to treat hyperthyroidism, and thyroid replacement may be necessary to supplement the body’s ability to manufacture thyroid hormones.

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Team Up With Your Doctor

Because of the wide variety of factors that might disrupt one’s sleep, finding a solution to the problem can be difficult. Other illnesses on that list include persistent physical ailments, mental health issues as well as neurological and medication-related issues.

Your doctor can easily identify if you have thyroid illness by doing a physical exam and a blood test. Keep a sleep diary and share any new or unusual physical problems with your doctor to help them help you.

Tips for Better Sleep

A third of our waking hours are spent sleeping. Your productivity, vitality, and physical and emotional well-being will improve if you get enough sleep.

No matter what’s keeping you up at night, it’s possible that you need a sleep makeover. Here are some methods for resolving your pillow issues:

  • Every day, make an effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time.
  • Maximize your exposure to natural light.
  • Make sure to avoid using any kind of light screen within an hour or two of retiring to bed.
  • Don’t sit for more than an hour at a time during the day.
  • Consume as little as possible in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Preparation for sleep should include a few minutes of quiet contemplation.
  • Create a sleep environment that is peaceful and relaxing.

A Word From Verywell

Thyroid problems are fairly frequent, and they can have a bad impact on sleep. Sleep apnea is also fairly frequent. Possibly there is a link between the two conditions. In the event that your thyroid hormone levels have stabilized, but you are still experiencing symptoms, examine the possibility of sleep apnea. After an evaluation by a board-certified sleep specialist, a sleep study may be beneficial. If you have sleep apnea, your health and well-being may improve if it is detected and treated correctly.

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