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Thyroid Problems and Insomnia

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on July 15, 2021

Insomnia is when you have trouble falling or staying asleep. That affects how you feel and are able to function during the daytime. Many things can cause it, including certain health conditions, like an issue with your thyroid gland.

The thyroid is at the base of your neck in the front. It makes several important hormones that help with things like muscle control, brain function, metabolism, heart rate, and digestion, as well as skin, hair, and nail growth.

Because your thyroid is responsible for so many important bodily functions, any kind of problem with it can cause trouble. And that includes trouble with sleep.

Your Thyroid and Your Sleep

If your thyroid makes too much or too little of certain hormones, your body chemistry can get out of balance. That can affect your circadian rhythm -- the internal body clock that’s responsible for your sleep-wake cycle.

If your thyroid makes too much hormone, it’s a condition called hyperthyroidism. You might wake up often feeling nervous or cranky, have night sweats, or have to pee often during the night.

If your thyroid makes too little hormone, it’s a more common condition called hypothyroidism. You might have trouble falling asleep or not be able to stay asleep long enough to feel fully rested. Hypothyroidism also can affect your sleep by making you feel too cold or causing joint or muscle pain.

Some people with hypothyroidism also feel extremely sleepy in the daytime, to the point that it’s hard to stay awake. That condition is called hypersomnia.

Could Your Thyroid Be Causing Your Sleep Issues?

Thyroid conditions are linked to many other symptoms besides trouble with sleep. If you have any of these other signs, it can mean that a thyroid problem is behind your sleep problem.

Besides joint or muscle pain, daytime sleepiness or fatigue, and feeling cold, hypothyroidism can also cause:

In addition to feeling nervous or cranky, having night sweats, and needing to pee often, hyperthyroidism can also cause:

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Bigger appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Shaky hands and fingers
  • Brittle hair
  • Thin skin
  • Changes in bowel habits or menstrual periods

What You Can Do

A simple blood test can tell your doctor if you have a thyroid issue.

If you have hypothyroidism, your doctor can prescribe levothyroxine (Levo-T, Synthroid). You can take it daily to keep your thyroid hormones at a normal level. Age and other things can affect your hormones, so you’ll need to see your doctor regularly to make sure you’re getting the right amount.

If you have hyperthyroidism, your doctor might recommend radioactive iodine. That can shrink your thyroid gland. Anti-thyroid medicines can keep your body from making too much hormone. Beta-blockers are sometimes used to ease the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, but they don’t affect your hormone levels. Surgery to remove most of your thyroid is an option for expectant mothers or other people who can’t take the medications, but this isn’t done often.

If you have a thyroid problem, you can do a few things on your own to get better sleep:

  • Find a comfortable sleeping temperature. While this can be a little tricky, 65 F is a good place to start.
  • Get into a bedtime routine. Set the mood to wind down with soft music and relaxing activities, like reading or taking a bath. Turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bed.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, and avoid heavy meals close to bedtime.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Sleep Foundation: “Insomnia,” “Thyroid Issues and Sleep.” 

Cleveland Clinic: “Insomnia.”

Mayo Clinic: “Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid),” “Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid).” 

Hormone Health Network: “Thyroid Hormones.”

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