What Causes Thyroid Disease? and A Few Tips for Better Sleep With Thyroid Issues Update 02/2024

Located near the front of your neck, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that produces thyroid hormones. Thyroxine and triiodothyronine are two hormones that control how the body utilizes energy. Many bodily functions, such as breathing and heart rate, digestion, and temperature, are influenced by these hormones, which are found in nearly every organ.

Thyroid hormone levels must be kept in check in order to avoid harmful side effects from either too much or too little of these hormones. Thyroid abnormalities can also cause sleep disturbances. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone production) and hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone production) are both linked to an increased risk of sleep apnea.

What Causes Thyroid Disease?

Circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that houses the master circadian clock.

As a result of SCN hormone release, several physical functions, such as sleep-wake cycles, are kept in check. Thyrotropin, one of these hormones, stimulates the thyroid, causing the thyroid hormones to be released. Thyrotropin production and your circadian rhythm might be disrupted if your thyroid is hyperactive or underactive.

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is a condition that arises when the thyroid does not generate enough hormones. Hypothyroidism affects one in every twenty Americans over the age of 12, according to recent U.S. statistics. Patients with hypothyroidism are frequently given synthetic thyroid hormones.

One in every 100 people in the United States has hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid. An overabundance of hormones produced by the thyroid is the cause of this illness. Medications to reduce thyroid hormone levels are frequently recommended to patients with hyperthyroidism.

An underlying autoimmune condition may be at least partially to blame for thyroid problems in certain persons. It is in these situations that the immune system will attack the body’s own cells, believing that they are pathogens. Other disorders, such as Hashimoto’s disease, can cause hypothyroidism, while Graves’ disease can produce hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are both linked to Type 1 diabetes, which is a risk factor for both.

Even in women without a history of thyroid disease, pregnancy has been related to thyroid difficulties. Thyroid hormone levels will be routinely monitored by doctors to ensure the health of the mother and her unborn child. After giving birth, some women notice an overactive or underactive thyroid for up to a year. Thyroid disorders should be addressed before pregnancy for women who already have them.

Finally, thyroid health may be influenced by iodine intake. Because iodine is essential for the production of hormones, a deficiency or excess of it in your diet may cause thyroid illness.

Can Your Thyroid Cause Sleep Problems?

Sleep disorders have been linked to thyroid abnormalities. Aside from sleep disturbances brought on by stress or irritation, hyperthyroidism (overactivity) can also produce muscle weakness and a general sense of exhaustion. Night sweats and frequent urination are other symptoms of an overactive thyroid that can interfere with a good night’s sleep.

People with hypothyroidism (underactive) are more likely to suffer from nighttime joint or muscular pain that interrupts sleep. Several studies have found a correlation between an underactive thyroid and a poor night’s sleep, a longer sleep onset (the time it takes to fall asleep), and a shorter sleep duration. Hypothyroidism is more likely to cause sleep issues in younger persons, as well as in those with a smaller BMI and women.

It is possible that hypothyroidism can produce hypersomnia, or an insatiable desire to sleep, or occasional lapses in sleep. Hypothyroidism, an endocrine system issue, is thought to be the most common cause of hypersomnia, but there are other possible causes. Sleep-related hypoventilation, or extremely slow or shallow breathing, can also be confused for hypothyroidism if it goes untreated.

Restless legs syndrome may be exacerbated by unbalanced thyroid function (RLS). When the body is at rest, people with this disease experience unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings in their legs. RLS symptoms are most common in the evenings or right before falling asleep. RLS can cause considerable sleep deprivation and daytime deficits because of its disruptive nature. It is believed that an overactive thyroid might contribute to a condition known as night terrors, which is characterized by frightening outbursts of terror that occur in the middle of the night.

You may be more susceptible to thyroid disease if you have a poor sleep schedule. Those who sleep fewer than seven hours per day are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism, while those who sleep more than eight hours a day have an increased risk of both overactive and underactive thyroid function. Thyroid dysfunction is more common in persons with weakened immune systems, which is why getting enough sleep is important for maintaining a healthy immune system.

When to See a Doctor

People with hypothyroidism may not notice their symptoms for years because the condition progresses slowly. As a result, your doctor is likely to conduct more tests to rule out other possible diagnoses. For hyperthyroidism, multiple blood tests are also required to provide a diagnosis. Hyperthyroidism can be mistaken for depression or dementia in older individuals because it can exhibit comparable symptoms, such as a lack of appetite and social disengagement, as well as a decline in cognitive function.

Your thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and thyrotropin levels may be tested to see if your thyroid is overactive or underactive. Six to eight weeks after taking levothyroxine for hypothyroidism, patients may be retested to check if their thyroid levels have improved as a result of the medication. Patients with suspected hyperthyroidism may be prescribed methimazole or another anti-thyroid drug.

Due to their increased risk of developing thyroid illness, pregnant women are frequently recommended to undergo thyroid tests. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can make it harder to conceive, thus these tests may be recommended to those seeking reproductive treatment.

Make an appointment with your doctor if you feel a lump or swelling on the side of your throat. This could be the first indication of thyroid cancer, which affects approximately 47,000 adults each year. Another symptom of thyroid cancer is a raspy voice or difficulty breathing or swallowing. Thyroid cancer can be passed down through families through genetics, but radiation exposure, especially as a child, can significantly raise your risk of developing the disease.

Tips for Better Sleep With Thyroid Issues

To help those with thyroid illness who are experiencing sleep issues, there are a number of things they can do.

For many people, getting the proper temperature in their bedroom is critical. Most experts agree that the ideal sleeping temperature for most people is 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius). A thyroid disorder, on the other hand, can cause night sweats and a decreased tolerance to cold temperatures in those who suffer from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, respectively. If you have thyroid problems, you may find that your preferred temperature slips outside of the normal range of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6-19.4 degrees Celsius).

Whether or not you have thyroid disease, basic sleep hygiene can help you sleep better. A good night’s sleep is defined as one that is regular, uninterrupted, and restorative to the body and mind. As a general rule, you should go to bed and rise at the same time every day, especially on weekends. You should also refrain from using electronic devices for up to an hour before going to sleep.

For good sleep hygiene, a well-balanced diet is just as important. It’s advisable to have light snacks rather than heavy meals before going to sleep. When it comes to iodine intake, those with thyroid problems need to be very careful because too much or too little iodine in the diet might influence thyroid activity. Caffeine and alcohol, both of which have been shown to impair sleep, should be avoided in the hours before bedtime.

Could Your Thyroid Be Causing Your Sleep Issues?

Thyroid problems are connected to a wide range of other symptoms, including sleep disturbances. In addition to the symptoms listed above, you may have a thyroid issue if you exhibit any of them.

An additional side effect of hypothyroidism, aside from coldness and weariness, is the following list of additional signs and symptoms:

  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Constipation
  • Thinning hair
  • Dry skin
  • Hoarseness
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods

Additionally, hyperthyroidism can lead to irritability, nocturnal sweats, and frequent urination.

  • The heartbeat is erratic or fast.
  • Increased hunger
  • Loss of weight that was not expected
  • Myofascial atrophy
  • Hands and fingers tremble.
  • Hair that is easily damaged.
  • The skin is very thin.
  • Changes in bowel or menstrual patterns

What You Can Do

Thyroid problems can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

Doctors can give you levothyroxine for hypothyroidism (Levo-T, Synthroid). Thyroid hormone levels can be maintained by taking it on a daily basis. You’ll need to see your doctor on a frequent basis to make sure you’re getting the proper amount of hormones as you become older.

Your doctor may suggest radioactive iodine if you have hyperthyroidism. Your thyroid gland may become smaller as a result of this. Thyroid hormone production can be reduced with anti-thyroid medications. Hyperthyroidism is occasionally treated with beta-blockers, which have little effect on hormone levels. People who cannot take the medication can have their thyroid partially removed surgically, but this is a rare occurrence.

There are a few things you can do on your own to sleep better if you have a thyroid issue:

  • Set your thermostat to a setting that is conducive to restful sleep. While 65 F is a nice starting point, it can be a little hard.
  • Consistently wind down for the night. Relaxing activities like reading or having a bath might help set the tone for a peaceful night’s sleep. A minimum of one hour before going to bed, turn off all electronic devices.
  • Avoid big meals close tonight and limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

Hypothyroidism symptoms can come on rapidly or gradually, depending on how fast or suddenly thyroid levels drop. Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed based on a number of symptoms. Among them are:

  • Cold sensitivity.
  • Constipation.
  • Skin that is parched.
  • Flimsy fingernails.
  • Loss of hair
  • Increased body mass for no apparent reason.
  • An increased risk of heart disease.
  • Irritability.
  • Feminine insufficiency
  • Heart rate should be kept at a minimum.
  • Uterine hemorrhage that isn’t regular.

In order to make a diagnosis, not all of the following symptoms must be present.

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms

Different symptoms may be present if the thyroid gland is overproducing thyroid hormone (often referred to as an overactive thyroid). Among them are:

  • Excessive dripping of sweat.
  • Intolerance to heat.
  • Skin that feels good to the touch.
  • An insatiable need for food.
  • Loss of weight.
  • The state of mind fluctuates.
  • Attack of terror.
  • Irritability.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Restlessness.
  • Nervousness.
  • The heartbeat is out of whack.
  • The heart is pounding.
  • Palpitations.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Menstruation that is irregular or that is light and brief.
  • Protrusion of the eyes or puffiness around the eyes.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Loss of hair
  • Deficiency of muscle.
  • Tremor.

As previously stated, not all of these symptoms must be present in order to be diagnosed with the ailment in question.

Thyroid Dysfunction and Sleep Problems

There are a number of sleep-related issues associated with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

An obstructive sleep condition, like hypothyroidism, is relatively common in the general population. In patients with obstructive sleep apnea, daytime fatigue, apathy, and feeling lethargic are common symptoms. Hypothyroidism shares many of these symptoms, making it difficult to tell the two apart from a patient’s medical history and physical exam.

As a result, hypothyroidism patients may be more susceptible to developing obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a variety of factors, including damage to the nerves and muscles that control breathing. As a result, hypothyroidism may cause obstructive sleep apnea by causing the tongue to grow (known as macroglossia) or the muscles that govern the upper airway to become dysfunctional. Obesity is another risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea among hypothyroid people.


There are certain persons who are hypothyroid and suffer from sleeplessness because of their condition. Disrupted breathing can induce rapid arousals from sleep in people who suffer from sleep apnea. Frequent nighttime awakenings, particularly in the early morning hours of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, may be signs of this condition. It’s possible that your sleep is brief and unrefreshing.

A long time in bed is possible if the quality of sleep is poor. Having trouble falling asleep at the beginning of the night can be caused by going to bed too early or staying up too late. Chronic insomnia may result if a person spends more time in bed than is necessary to feel refreshed.

As a result, if you have insomnia and your doctor suspects you have thyroid disease, it’s a good idea to check for sleep apnea as well.

Night Sweats

Night sweats are more common with hyperthyroidism because the body has a harder time controlling its temperature, and this can make sleeping more difficult. Night sweats are a frequent symptom of menopause. Sleep-disordered breathing may also play a part in this condition.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The findings of blood tests assessing multiple thyroid function markers can be used to quickly diagnose and treat thyroid disorders. The asleep study can assist diagnose sleep apnea in persons who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and exhibit signs of sleep apnea. If you’re having trouble sleeping, a sleep study can be done either in a medical facility or at your own home with the help of portable equipment.

Even if they have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are being treated for it, patients who have persistent symptoms may want to request that their doctors run a blood test to check their thyroid levels. Constant positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy has proven to be the most effective technique to combat sleep apnea. Surgery, positioning therapy, and weight loss are all options. Oral appliances can also be obtained from dentists and other medical professionals.

It’s time to talk to your doctor about obtaining a thyroid blood test to see if you’re experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms. For the most part, it’s a good idea to check your thyroid-stimulating hormone levels (TSH). The levels of T3 and T4 may also be examined if this is extremely high, indicating that the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone. In cases of hyperthyroidism, the TSH level may be abnormally low, accompanied by elevated T3 and T3 levels.

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy can alleviate sleep apnea and breathing problems caused by hypothyroidism. Synthroid is the most common kind of this medication (levothyroxine). Armor thyroid, which is derived from animal sources, is another option. Surgeons and radioactive iodine can treat hyperthyroidism, and thyroid replacement may be necessary afterward to supplement the body’s own production.

Team Up With Your Doctor

Many various causes might contribute to sleep issues, making it difficult to get a good night’s rest. Chronic physical problems, mental health disorders, neurologic disorders, and drugs are all on that long list.

Your doctor can easily identify if you have thyroid illness by doing a physical exam and a blood test. Keep a sleep diary and share any new or unusual physical problems with your doctor to help them help you.

Tips for Better Sleep

Sleep accounts for a third of our lives. Getting a good night’s sleep will improve your productivity, energy, and mental and physical well-being.

No matter what’s keeping you up at night, it’s possible that a change in your sleeping habits is in order. Here are some methods for resolving your pillow issues:

  • Be consistent with the times you go to bed and wake up on a daily basis.
  • The more natural light you can get, the better.
  • Before going to bed, turn off all bright screens.
  • Get up and move about frequently throughout the day; don’t sit down for more than an hour at a time.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and large meals before bedtime.
  • Before going to bed, take some time to engage in activities that will help you wind down.
  • Make your bedroom a peaceful and relaxing place to sleep.

A Word From Verywell

Thyroid problems are fairly frequent, and they can have a bad impact on sleep. Sleep apnea is also fairly frequent. It’s possible that the two are connected. Consider sleep apnea if your symptoms persist despite restoration of your thyroid hormone levels in blood tests. After a sleep evaluation by a board-certified sleep specialist, a sleep study may be beneficial. If you have sleep apnea, your health and well-being may improve if it is detected and treated correctly.

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