Thyroid and Sleep

You are dragging all day long, yet when it’s finally time to turn in for the night, you can’t sleep. sleep-quoteOr you find yourself laying awake for a long time before falling asleep for the night…or if you can fall asleep well, you tend to wake up often within the next hour or two.

What gives? It could be an underactive thyroid. You may have an under active thyroid even if the standard TSH lab test said you were “normal”.

Your ability to sleep and stay asleep depends largely on the health of your liver. Often when you become hypothyroid, your liver loses the ability to produce and store glycogen. Glycogen is a form of sugar your body relies on, especially at night when you don’t eat for a long period of time, to prevent your blood sugar from crashing. And because you don’t store glycogen and don’t eat anything while you sleep, this makes you prone to low blood sugar when sleeping. This drop in blood sugar triggers the activation of your stress response, where we oftentimes see surges of adrenaline. And it’s these surges of adrenaline that wake you up and prevent you from going back to sleep. Adrenaline also naturally rises at night, oftentimes peaking at 2am or 3am in the morning.

The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, can have a dramatic impact on a huge variety of bodily functions, and if you’re a woman over 35 your odds of a thyroid disorder are high. What causes your thyroid to go haywire? It could be genetics, an autoimmune attack, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or toxins in the environment. Or it could be secondary to adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue happens when cortisol levels become consistently low, often after a traumatic event or from a sustained lifestyle of too many late nights, poor food choices, and chronic stress. The body enters a catabolic state, which signals the thyroid to slow down.

Because of thyroid hormones far reach in the body—from brain to bowels—diagnosing a disorder can be challenging. Symptoms of hypothyroidism in adults include:

Early symptoms
• Easy fatigue, exhaustion
• Poor tolerance to cold temperatures
• Constipation
• Carpal tunnel syndrome (pain at the wrists and numbness of the hands)

Later symptoms
• Poor appetite
• Weight gain
• Dry skin
• Hair loss
• Intellectual ability worsens
• Deeper, hoarse voice
• Puffiness around the eyes
• Depression
• Irregular menstrual periods or lack of menstrual periods


The thyroid hormones work in a feedback loop with your brain — particularly your pituitary, hypothalamus and adrenals — in regulating the release of thyroid hormone. This is where all the HPA Axis talk comes from. Your pituitary makes TRH (thyroid releasing hormone), and your hypothalamus makes TSH. If everything is working properly, you will make what you need and you’ll have the proper amounts of T3 and T4. Those two thyroid hormones — T3 and T4 — are what control the metabolism of every cell in your body, your body’s temperature, and heartbeat to name just a few. But their delicate balance can be disrupted by nutritional imbalances, toxins, allergens, infections, and stress. If your hormones are off balance your whole system suffers.

You may also notice a messed up sense of taste and smell, low libido, brain fog, excessive daytime sleepiness, heart flutters, changes to your period – particularly longer, heavier flow and more cramps. Mysterious or sudden tingling/numbness, high blood pressure, weight gain, hair thinning or falling out, trouble getting pregnant, high cholesterol.

What do you do about it?

Well yes, that is the question. And it isn’t an easy – one size fits all answer. Sorry. You need to get some help. Make an appointment with me or email me to help you find someone in your area who can help.

Not interested in any of that? Ok if you insist on self medicating please do it safely and stick with adaptogenic herbs (that way if you are wrong, you won’t do too much damage). Thyrosol is a well rounded thyroid support. Energenics is a great multi if you suspect thyroid issues. Licorice Plus is an excellent adaptogen for cortisol metabolism (not recommended for those with heart disease or hypertension).

Other things to do:

  • Keep your bedroom cool. A comfortable bedroom temperature is important, especially while you’re in the process of getting your thyroid regulated.
  • Try turning down all lights at least an hour before you go to bed. This includes not staring at your phone, tablet or computer screen. Keep your bedroom dark and cover all bright or flashing lights. Darkness helps with natural melatonin production.
  • Having a relaxing pre-sleep routine is one of the most important things you can do to help facilitate good sleep. Take a warm bath with relaxing scents like lavender, read a favorite book (not an e-book with a backlit screen), or listen to relaxing music. A cup of chamomile tea after dinner may help you begin the relaxing process.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and supportive for a good night’s sleep.
  • Indulging in a large meal close to bedtime can disrupt sleep, as can eating something unusual. If you’re struggling with sleep problems, avoid spicy dishes and foods or drinks with caffeine, such as chocolate or coffee.
  • Eating a little something with a combination of protein and fat, such as celery and almond butter, before bed can help keep blood sugars balanced overnight. Try nuts, which are rich in selenium.
  • One of the biggest contributors to sleep problems is stress, and people tend to think about stressful situations instead of closing their eyes when they climb into bed. To address these issues in a beneficial way, try writing in a journal or practicing relaxation techniques like meditation.
  • A glass of wine or cocktail may help you fall asleep faster, but it makes it harder to stay asleep.
  • Choose and stick to firm wake and bed times—even on weekends and holidays.
  • Exercise in the morning and do a relaxing yoga or meditation at night.
  • Eat cherries in the evening. Cherries boost the body’s own supply of melatonin.
  • Get plenty of sunlight to optimize your vitamin D levels or take a good D supplement.
  • Take a complete omega 3 supplement with more of the EPA than DHA, like this one.
  • Eliminate refined carbohydrates, high glycemic complex carbohydrates
  • Maintain daily carbohydrate intake at not more than 80 grams but DO NOT restrict calories. The thyroid will sense when weight loss is too rapid for the individual and simply shut down. Any weight loss needs to be steady and controlled. Support the thyroid with GTAMeda-Stim, etc. if rapid weight loss is absolutely required.