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Can Thyroid Dysfunction Cause Sleep Problems?

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Many people often look forward to one thing at the end of the day – sleep. 

Whether you’re an adult or anyone younger, you can’t say no to a sound slumber that your body demands. 

That’s why it’s pretty alarming when sleep doesn’t come as easy as it normally should be. One culprit for this dilemma could be your thyroid gland.

Indeed, thyroid problems or dysfunctions can cause sleep problems, particularly insomnia. 

Your thyroid plays various roles in the body’s functions, most notably regulating metabolism. 

But if the thyroid gland is under any sort of imbalance, it can throw off your sleep due to symptoms that could keep you up all night, such as joint pain, anxiety, daytime fatigue, and disrupted breathing.

Nevertheless, if thyroid functions are treated and managed back to normalcy, the sleep problems may also go away. In this sense, it’s only fitting to take the necessary thyroid blood tests to secure proper treatment. 

If you want to know more about thyroid dysfunctions are their effects on your sleep, just keep reading as we lay down the details. 

What Are Thyroid Dysfunctions? 

Thyroid dysfunctions occur when the organ fails to produce adequate hormones due to anatomical or chemical problems caused by infection or underlying medical conditions. 

The thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck and can be distinguished due to its butterfly shape. It plays a crucial role in metabolism, influencing other organ functions such as the heart, muscle, pancreas, brain, etc. 

The hormones produced by the thyroid gland dictate how much energy the cells should use. Therefore, issues concerning the production of thyroid hormones can significantly affect various activities in the body. 

Generally, two primary thyroid dysfunctions are identified with several thyroid disorders: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. 

Simply put, hypothyroidism indicates inactivity of the thyroid gland producing low levels of the essential thyroid hormones. 

On the other hand, hyperthyroidism suggests an overactive thyroid gland. With this condition, the hormones are produced in excessive amounts, which tip off the body’s homeostasis or balance system. 

Hypothyroidism is associated with conditions such as thyroiditis, iodine deficiency, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. 

Meanwhile, hyperthyroidism can be due to high iodine levels, thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, and the formation of nodules. 

How Do Thyroid Problems Affect Sleep? 

Research has established the link between thyroid problems (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism) with sleep disorders like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. 

For example, patients diagnosed with conditions that cause hyperthyroidism were known to experience difficulties maintaining sleep at night. This can be due to night sweats, frequent urination, rapid heartbeat, and nervousness which can peak in the middle of the night. 

In the same way, those with hypothyroidism are also more prone to insomnia and sleep apnea. Symptoms of the condition like joint and muscle pain, along with low tolerance for cold, are some of the factors that disturb sleep. 

Moreover, daytime sleepiness is prevalent among those with inactive thyroid – a  condition clinically referred to as hypersomnia. As a result, they tend to sleep more in the morning, making it difficult to do the same at night. 

How Are Thyroid Dysfunctions Diagnosed? 

Thyroid dysfunctions can be diagnosed through blood tests. However, your doctor will most likely begin with a physical exam to check if your thyroid gland has grown disproportionately. 

In some cases, a thyroid scan is also ordered to confirm enlargement and any anatomical changes in the gland. 

But taking a blood test pretty much determines the chemical problems, specifically hormonal imbalances, that cause thyroid dysfunctions.

During the thyroid blood tests, the following hormones are assessed.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)

TSH is not released by the thyroid gland. Instead, its production takes place in the brain, particularly the pituitary gland. 

As its name suggests, TSH regulates and prompts the hormones secreted by the thyroid gland. 

A TSH test screens for the levels of the said hormone in the blood. Normal TSH ranges from 0.5 to 5.0 mIU/L. This means going below the minimum value suggests insufficient TSH production that could have been causing thyroid inactivity. 

On the other hand, a result above the range may indicate thyroid hyperactivity. 

Thyroxine (T4)

T4 is a crucial hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It holds several functions in brain development, metabolism, muscle control, cardiovascular regulation, and bone health. 

Two types of T4 can be found in the body: bound T4 and free T4. Bound T4 is attached to a protein while free T4 circulates freely in the bloodstream through the tissues. Therefore, in a T4 blood test, total T4 is assessed, which is the combination of bound and free T4. 

If the test shows that T4 levels are below or above 0.8 to 1.8 ng/dL (free T4) or 5.0 to 12.0 ng/dL (total T4), it could imply an underactive or overactive thyroid gland. 

Triiodothyronine (T3)

T3 is another thyroid hormone involved in various functions extending from metabolic rate weight regulation to heart and brain health.  

Similar to T4, T3 also comes in the form of bound and free hormones. Therefore, the T3 blood test measures total or free T3. 

The normal ranges for T3 are between 75 to 195 ng/dL (total T3) and 0.2 to 0.5 ng/dL (free T3)

A T3 test result that goes outside these values suggests thyroid dysfunction that could be the reason why you have sleep problems. 

How To Get Better Sleep If You Have Thyroid Problems? 

While thyroid problems can disturb sleep, you can still find ways to get sufficient rest.

  1. Get the proper treatment for your thyroid problems.

Considering the impact of thyroid problems on your sleep, it only makes sense to see your doctor, confirm the condition, and get the proper treatment.  

Addressing thyroid dysfunction encompasses solving accompanying conditions like insomnia and restless leg syndrome.  

  1. Cut your screen time at night.

Several studies found that prolonged exposure to your phone’s light can mess up your melatonin production, especially at night. 

Melatonin is the hormone responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. At night, the pineal gland releases more melatonin, signaling that the body should sleep. 

The secretion of this hormone is influenced by temperature and the amount of light. 

Naturally, as smartphones and other gadgets emit intense light, they interfere with melatonin production causing insomnia and other sleep problems. 

  1. Keep the room cool and dark.

In the spirit of ensuring your brain continues to produce adequate melatonin, it helps a lot to keep your room cool and dark. 

The thermal environment has been known to affect the circadian rhythm. 

Moreover, as light exposure limits melatonin, it is best to secure a dim or darker atmosphere in your room to encourage melatonin production. 

  1. Avoid coffee and other stimulants at night. 

Caffeine, an active ingredient found in coffee, is the last thing your brain needs before sleep. This substance is known to block adenosine receptors that are supposed to process the chemical adenosine, promoting sleep. 

By interfering with this physiological mechanism, the brain remains active. Furthermore, caffeine also affects the circadian rhythm influenced by melatonin production, intensifying sleep deprivation. 

  1. Find a way to relax. 

It’s a lot more challenging to sleep when you’re anxious. 

With about 78% of American adults experiencing a stressful day at least once a week, there’s no wonder why about 35.2% of the population is reported to lack regular sleep. 

Unfortunately, there are simply lots of sources for stress, and trying to eliminate them all won’t even be probable. 

One of the best things to do when it comes to finding the most effective way to destress is understanding how your body can relax. 

You may find a soothing bath preferable to reading or meditation. What’s important is that you can ease your mind up to prepare your body for deep sleep. 

The Bottom Line 

You don’t really understand the value of something until you start having trouble with it. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the case with sleep. 

You may have taken it for granted at some point in your life, but when sleeping becomes an issue, it’s imperative to get to its very cause. So with that, you may want to check your thyroid health. 

Problems revolving around the thyroid gland should never be taken for granted. 

Aside from sleep problems, watch out for symptoms such as sudden weight changes, fatigue, irritability, intolerance to low temperatures, thyroid gland enlargement, muscle weakness, and irregular heavy menstruations.

If these symptoms do exist, consult your doctor and secure the proper blood tests for accurate diagnosis. You can check out some of the thyroid blood tests available here at Personalabs

Medically Approved By Dr. Edward Salko, MD

Dr. Edward Salko is the board-certified physician who reviews lab tests provided by PERSONALABS™. He earned his Bachelor of Science in chemistry and pre-med from the University of Florida in Gainesville and his Doctor of Osteopathy Medicine in 1980 from Kansas City University School of Medicine.

Dr. Salko’s career has specialized in family and emergency medicine. His passion is to provide clients with the tools they need in the most convenient way possible to allow them to take charge of their own healthcare. He has held a variety of positions in Kansas, Florida and Washington. Currently, in addition to his duties as Medical Director for Personalabs, he is a practicing emergency physician in Kennewick, Washington.

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