What Every Person With A Thyroid Condition Needs To Know About Sleep
According to the American Thyroid Association, about 20 million Americans currently have some form of thyroid disease. This small but mighty gland in the middle of the upper neck can cause a lot of problems when it's not functioning properly; just a few symptoms of thyroid disease include irritability, nervousness, fatigue, muscle weakness, unexplained weight loss or gain, and even vision problems.
If you've been diagnosed with a thyroid issue—whether it be hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, which is the name for an underactive thyroid—you might also experience sleep disturbances that will not only affect your quality of life but could make your thyroid issue worse. Here's what you need to know about thyroid health and sleep—plus exactly what to do to support both.
The thyroid-sleep connection you need to know about.
If you have hypothyroidism, your bodily processes have slowed down, and you are likely experiencing fatigue. And according to the National Sleep Foundation, "For people with this condition, even a solid seven to nine hours of sleep at night doesn't shake the constant sense of exhaustion."
If you have hyperthyroidism, you're likely to be jittery and suffering from insomnia. And ironically, this lack of sleep can harm your thyroid even further. For example, one study published in the journal Sleep concluded that "Partial sleep restriction was accompanied by a modest but statistically significant reduction in TSH and free T4, seen mainly in the female participants of the study."
As we saw in this study, the connection between thyroid and sleep seems to be stronger in women than men, which brings us to...
Why women are more vulnerable to sleep and thyroid problems.
Did you know that women are about seven times more likely than men to develop a thyroid issue in the first place? It's true. Not surprisingly, research—like this National Sleep Foundation poll conducted in 2005—have also shown that women have a harder time than men falling asleep and staying asleep, even if they don't have a thyroid problem.
So what's the connection?
According to Jon Mitchell, PA-C, certified physician assistant and functional medicine health consultant, "Sleep deprivation has been found to cause a short-term rise in thyroid hormone, but when chronically sleep deprived, the thyroid can become down-regulated due to it being overstimulated." He says this is just one of the many reasons sleep is so important for thyroid health.
So what's the take-home? If you have a thyroid issue, it's time to make sleep a central focus and try some of these natural ways to improve sleep. And if you don't have a thyroid issue but want to prevent one, making sure your sleep quality is up to par is a great place to start.
The absolute best way to support your thyroid health.
If you've been diagnosed with a thyroid issue and your sleep has been affected, you know that fixing the problem is more complicated than just sleeping more or less. Instead of focusing on just sleep, many experts suggest a holistic approach to supporting your thyroid, which can improve sleep indirectly. This is best done under the supervision of a doctor who can monitor your thyroid levels and prescribe medication if it's needed.
In the meantime, it's a great idea to up your intake of foods that heal your thyroid, such as Brazil nuts, dark leafy greens, and wild Alaskan salmon. According to Stephanie Gray, DNP, M.S., ARNP—a functional medicine provider and health expert—you might also want to take it easy at the gym. "This may mean opting for calming exercises like yoga a few times each week instead of hitting the gym for intense cardio daily," she wrote.
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