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Can't Get a Good Night's Sleep?
Your Thyroid May Be to Blame
Patients with thyroid disorders already know that this little gland can be a big troublemaker. The list of symptoms associated with illnesses and diseases like thyroid cancer, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism can sometimes seem to span an entire medical dictionary, ranging from anxiety to zinc deficiency.
So while it may not be surprising to learn that sleep disturbances are yet another symptom that are counted among the culprits linked to thyroid disorders, some patients are taken aback by how much these thyroid disorders can impact their quality of life. Many find that going without a full night of restful sleep for months at a stretch can wreak havoc in their personal and professional lives.
Are you or a loved one experiencing sleep disturbances that you think may be related to thyroid problems? Well, don't despair -- new treatments are being developed that may help you overcome your problems. This week, we'll take a look at some of the most common thyroid-related sleep disorders and the steps that can be taken to overcome them.
Sleep Disorders Linked to Hypothyroidism
Patients with hypothyroidism have underactive thyroid glands, which results in a deficiency of thyroid hormones in the body. In effect, this deficiency slows down many of the bodily processes, and hypothyroid patients often face a daily struggle with fatigue, weakness, and a lack of energy.
In some cases, the fatigue associated with hypothyroidism can result in a disorder known as Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS). This debilitating syndrome can make it nearly impossible for patients to complete their daily tasks and responsibilities.
The fatigue linked with hypothyroidism is often worsened by the fact that patients with this disorder often have difficulty sleeping due to thyroid-related sleep disorders. One of the most common sleep disorders reported by thyroid patients is obstructive sleep apnea. This sleeping disorder can disrupt rest and, in some cases, pose a serious health threat.
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea do not breathe in a regular, consistent pattern while sleeping, leading to heavy snoring, restless sleep, and a near-constant sense of feeling tired during the day. Although researchers are still exploring the exact ways in which hypothyroidism causes or increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea, they are fairly convinced that there is a causal connection.
Similarly, there is an increased risk of chronic fatigue syndrome among patients with hypothyroidism. This disorder causes fatigue so severe that it often results in a debilitating inability to function normally.
Sleep Disorders Linked to Hyperthyroidism
Like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism also causes its fair share of sleep disturbances. In spite of the fact that hyperthyroidism is, in many ways, the exact opposite of hypothyroidism, many of the sleep-related symptoms of these two diseases are similar, although for different physiological reasons.
Hyperthyroidism results from an overactive thyroid gland. The excess thyroid hormones that are pumped into the body as a result tend to "rev up" the entire body and all of its component systems. Often, hyperthyroid patients report feeling as if they have too much energy, resulting in feelings of anxiety and restlessness.
All of this excess energy can be tiring. As a result, hyperthyroid patients, much like their hypothyroid counterparts, often complain of fatigue. However, it is usually not the same level of crippling fatigue that is common among individuals with hypothyroidism.
Insomnia is one of the most commonly reported sleep disorders among patients with hyperthyroidism. The excess energy associated with this disease can make it difficult for the body to know when it is time to shut down. As such, hyperthyroid patients often find themselves wide awake, with mind racing and heart pumping, at two or three in the morning. The insomnia, not surprisingly, can also worsen the ongoing fatigue experienced by patients with hyperthyroidism.
Even when hyperthyroid patients are able to get to sleep, they often have difficulty staying asleep. It's not uncommon for a hyperthyroid individual to wake up dozens of times in the course of a single night. Restless sleep characterized by a great deal of movement and activity are also common among patients with hyperthyroidism.
What Can You Do?
As with all symptoms of thyroid diseases, the single most important step you can take is sticking strictly to your prescribed treatment regimen. Your thyroid medication helps your body regulate its production and distribution of thyroid hormone, and this, in turn, helps eradicate unwanted symptoms.
Experts also recommend that you set a strict sleeping schedule -- and stick to it. About an hour before your bedtime, begin to wind down with some relaxing activities, such as reading, taking a bubble bath, or turning down the lights and listening to soft music. Try to give your body clear cues when you want to go to sleep.
If you are a thyroid patient with ongoing sleep problems, be sure to talk to your doctor for additional tips and hints. Check back each week for more of the latest thyroid news and research.
For Further Reading
Note: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. This site should not be used in place of professional medical advice. The author is not a physician. For medical emergencies, call 911!
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