Is Hypothyroidism to Blame for Your Insomnia?

If you have hypothyroidism, you know firsthand that a tiny gland can be a big troublemaker. Besides causing dry itching skin, a tendency toward feeling cold, and general fatigue, untreated hypothyroidism may also be responsible for your inability to get regular, restorative sleep. There is something ironic (if not a bit unfair) about a condition that can cause daytime sleepiness and nighttime insomnia.

Hypothyroidism causes insomnia in a few different ways:

Sleep Apnea

When the thyroid gland cannot function properly, energy sources in the body cannot be utilized effectively. The result is steady weight gain. This excess weight can lead to a condition known as sleep apnea.

A person suffering from sleep apnea will stop breathing throughout the night. This happens when the weight of tissue at the back of the palate shuts off air flow from the nose to the throat. Eventually the airway is opened with a snort as the force of exhalation reaches a breaking point. This disruption of sleep can happen hundreds of times per night.


Hypothyroidism is linked to depression and can effect women in particular. The combination of a hormonal imbalance with mild to moderate depression can lead to agitation and anxiety. While this anxiety may not be enough to cause problems during the day, it can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep at night.

Hormone Replacement Adjustment Period

It can take some time, up to several months, before your doctor may be able to find just the right dosage of a medication like Synthroid. During this adjustment period, you may actually experience hyperthyroid symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, excess sweating, and insomnia. Once the right dosage has been discovered, you will be able to live a symptom-free life and experience a restful night’s sleep.

What Can You Do to Get a Good Night’s Sleep Now?

While working with your doctor to get your hypothyroidism under control, there are some things you can do to help your body get a good night’s sleep.

  1. Exercise

Recent studies indicate that moderate to intense aerobic exercise can alleviate insomnia. While the verdict is still out on the best time to exercise, I recommend doing so early in the day, then doing some relaxing yoga or even meditation before bedtime.

  1. Eat More Tryptophan at Night

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that gets converted into serotonin (a feel-good hormone) and eventually melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. Besides turkey, many foods like cheese, bananas, nuts, eggs and lentils are rich sources of tryptophan.

  1. Get More Sunlight

A vitamin D deficiency has been directly linked to insomnia. There’s no better way to increase your levels of this important vitamin than by getting outside and enjoying the sunshine.

Living with the symptoms of hypothyroidism, particularly insomnia, can make life feel unbearable. By working with your doctor to find the right medication dosage and making specific choices in diet and exercise, you will soon be the recipient of restful sleep.