Sleep that elusive state of bliss for most of us that suffer with hypothyroidism. We are tired…
Dog tired – most of the day.
Yet, when we crawl into bed for some reason, suddenly our brains won’t shut up and we spend the time that should be a wonderful retreat, starring at the ceiling wishing we could sleep, having conversations with people not even present or worrying about the trivial things in life we have no control over.
I’ve been there too.
What can we do about this? How do we sleep better with hypothyroidism?
First we need to understand what sleep is and how we get to sleep to begin with.
What is sleep?
Sleep is a series of cycles that run from 90-110 minutes and is divided into four stages: light sleep, true sleep, and 2 states of deep sleep.
BBC Science and Nature describes it like this:
Stage one: Light Sleep
During the first stage of sleep, we’re half awake and half asleep. Our muscle activity slows down and slight twitching may occur. This is a period of light sleep, meaning we can be awakened easily at this stage.
Stage two: True Sleep
Within ten minutes of light sleep, we enter stage two, which lasts around 20 minutes. The breathing pattern and heart rate start to slow down. This period accounts for the largest part of human sleep.
Stages three and four: Deep Sleep
During stage three, the brain begins to produce delta waves, a type of wave that is large (high amplitude) and slow (low frequency). Breathing and heart rate are at their lowest levels.
Stage four is characterized by rhythmic breathing and limited muscle activity. If we are awakened during deep sleep we do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes after waking up. Some children experience bed-wetting, night terrors, or sleepwalking during this stage.
The first rapid eye movement (REM) period usually begins about 70 to 90 minutes after we fall asleep. We have around three to five REM episodes a night.
Although we are not conscious, the brain is very active – often more so than when we are awake. This is the period when most dreams occur. Our eyes dart around (hence the name), our breathing rate and blood pressure rise. However, our bodies are effectively paralyzed, said to be nature’s way of preventing us from acting out our dreams.
After REM sleep, the whole cycle begins again.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep? In short we start to go crazy. After being awake for only seventeen hours, there is enough brain function deterioration to equal consuming two glasses of wine! No wonder there are the “Don’t Drive Drowsy” campaigns popping up all over the place.
While I’m confident, as fellow suffers of one of the hallmarks of hypothyroidism, lack of ability to sleep, you are well aware of the consequences of not getting good sleep, let’s review them anyway.
On top of feeling groggy and irritable, according to Webmd here are ten consequences of not getting enough sleep:
- It causes accidents – your reaction time and ability to focus diminish significantly
- Lack of sleep interferes with your cognitive abilities and learning skills
- Consistent lack of sleep can lead to serious health problems like:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- It decreases your sex drive
- It contributes to symptoms of depression
- Lack of sleep causes skin deterioration
- It makes you forgetful
- Not getting enough sleep can make you gain weight!
- It impairs our judgement and it can
- Sleeplessness can actually be fatal
Okay, so now that we understand why we need sleep what can we do to ensure that we get enough sleep?
7 Tips For Sleeping Better Even With Hypothyroidism
According to the Mayo Clinic here are seven things you can do to sleep better at night to live better during the day.
- Stick to a schedule. Our bodies crave routine.
- Think about what you eat
Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet.
Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine — which take hours to wear off — can wreak havoc with quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night. [MayoClinic]
- Create a bedtime ritual. Be careful about using electronics, including television, before you go to sleep as it has been shown to interfere with a good nights sleep.
- Create a sleeping environment. Invest in a good mattress and pillow, make sure your room is dark, quite and cool enough to promote good sleep even if you need to use room darkening shades and ear plugs.
- Limit daytime naps to no more than 30 minutes and make them early in the day. Napping makes sleeping at night much more difficult.
- Get some physical exercise – go for a walk.
- Manage stress. When you are stressed out it makes sleeping much more difficult. There is a tea you can drink that helps corral those stress hormones called Tulsi Tea.
Living with hypothyroidism can be challenging enough, trying to manage our symptoms in a natural and holistic way on little to no sleep is just flat out impossible.
Try incorporating some of the tips for sleeping better into your life so that you can live better, feel better and perhaps get this disease under control.
Tom Brimeyer, who also has suffered for years from hypothyroidism, has put together a program that he has found to help manage the debilitating effects of life with a thyroid that doesn’t function properly. You can read about what he has found that has worked for him and many others here: Hypothyroidism Revolution