How To Deal With Thyroid-Related Sleep Issues Naturally
We all have a poor night’s sleep from time to time. But if you’re constantly struggling to get to sleep, stay asleep, or wake up feeling refreshed, your thyroid may be to blame.
Many people think that feeling tired or struggling to switch off at the end of the night is normal. It might be usual, in that many people experience it, but it is not normal. More importantly, it’s not optimal for your overall health.
If your thyroid is the root of your sleep issues, it can become a catch-22. Your thyroid impacts your sleep, but then your poor sleep stresses your body and your thyroid. That’s why it’s important to get on top of your sleep as quickly as possible.
How do thyroid conditions impact your sleep?
Sleep is primarily a factor of the nervous system. Our sleep and wake chemicals are produced in the brain, and our ability to sleep depends on the nervous system switching to a resting state.
Thyroid conditions can affect your sleep both directly and indirectly. People with hypothyroid conditions tend to sleep for longer but still feel unrefreshed due to their low thyroid hormone levels. On the other hand, people with hyperthyroid conditions feel tired but wired and often struggle to get to sleep.
Indirect impacts of thyroid issues come back to other symptoms and side effects that affect the nervous system. Depression, anxiety and a low tolerance for stress are a few examples of thyroid symptoms that can impact on your sleep.
Setting up for a good night of sleep
If you’ve been struggling to get a night of good sleep, the good news is that there are steps you can take to get it back on track. You can use these same steps even if you’re not sure that your thyroid is the main cause of your sleep issues!
Here are my 10 top tips for a good night of sleep.
Get a dose of daylight
Good sleep starts long before you get into bed. Our bodies rely on the light of the day and the dark of the night to keep our internal wake and sleep rhythms in check. So if you’re inside all day, your body might not get the cues it needs to know when it’s time to rest.
Get at least 10 minutes of daylight every day – even if it’s through your office window. If possible, get out into the fresh air and sunshine.
Skip the caffeine after lunchtime
Many people rely on caffeine to keep them awake and productive throughout the day. But that cup of coffee is still in your system long after you finish drinking it.
Caffeine has a half-life of around 5-6 hours – meaning that if you have a two-shot coffee at 3pm, you still have a full shot’s worth of caffeine in your system by 8-9pm! It’s no wonder why your body doesn’t feel like sleeping.
If you’re going to drink caffeinated drinks such as coffee and green tea, keep them to morning time. Once you have lunch, switch to a caffeine-free option such as rooibos tea or dandelion chai.
Don’t use alcohol to put yourself to sleep
If you tend towards feeling tired but wired, you might reach for a glass of wine or two to wind you down. While alcohol might help you to feel sleepy and fall asleep in the first place, it’s actually disruptive to your sleep quality. Many people experience a rebound effect, where they wake up a few hours after falling asleep.
If you drink alcohol socially, make sure you have at least 2-3 alcohol-free nights a week. But if you’re suffering from the side effects of poor sleep, you might like to skip the alcohol entirely for a week or two to maximise your sleep quality.
Prepare your bedroom
Where you sleep is just as important as when you sleep. Unfortunately, central heating and technology have wormed their way into the bedroom and disrupted our sleep.
Think of your bedroom as a cave – it should be dark and cool to sleep in. Cover up all sources of light possible and have thick curtains on the windows. You may even like to use duct tape to cover lights from powerpoints and chargers.
For temperature, around 16-19 degrees Celcius is the sweet spot. You can always layer up the blankets or have a heat pack to keep you warm until you fall asleep if needed.
Ditch the screens
People often end their day by scrolling through their social media or watching some Netflix. But using screens before bed can disrupt your sleep. Screens give off blue light that can inhibit the production of melatonin, the main sleep chemical.
Switch off technology at least 30-60 minutes before bed. If you have to use them for work, consider installing a blue light blocker app such as f.lux to minimise the impact.
Give yourself time to digest
You might feel sleepy after dinner, especially if you have a carb-heavy meal like pasta. But digesting a lot of food right before bedtime can be a problem, especially if you already have digestive issues such as reflux.
A good rule of thumb is to eat dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime. If you do need to eat dinner later than that due to your work or hobbies, try to eat a smaller portion.
Find a way to unwind
Stress can often play a role in poor sleep. While it is important to manage your stress levels overall, one way to reduce it before bed is with an unwind routine. This routine not only tells your body that it’s time for bed, but also that the stresses of the day can be put aside.
A night routine is easy to tailor to your preferences - it can include any calming activity that you enjoy.
For example, you might make yourself a cup of calming herbal tea, take a shower or spend some time reading before bed. Or you could go for a walk around the block, light a candle or two, spend some time journalling and do a deep breathing exercise after turning out the light.
Stick to a regular sleep and wake time
Some people will go to sleep at a different time every night. Others will stick to a routine during the week, but then stay up late and sleep in over the weekend.
When it comes to sleep, it’s best to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day. You can vary this a little bit, but more than about an hour’s difference can throw your sleep rhythm right out.
Optimise your thyroid levels
Although the previous tips will help improve your sleep quality and quantity, it’s important to address the root cause. Otherwise, all you are doing is putting a bandaid on one of the symptoms of the real problem!
Make sure you work with your health team to monitor your thyroid levels and address any imbalances that arise.
Work with a practitioner
If sleep has been an ongoing issue for a while, or if it is a side effect of your thyroid condition, you may need to seek professional help. An experienced practitioner can prescribe supplements and herbs to help with sleep and address your thyroid hormones.