Your Thyroid and Your Sleep: What you need to know
Do you know what the most common autoimmune disease in the US is? Hashimoto's! Studies show that 90% of people with hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, are producing antibodies to thyroid tissue.
Thyroid problems are extremely common these days! The synthetic form of the thyroid hormone is the fourth highest selling drug in the US. Millions of people are diagnosed with thyroid problems and there are many more who have symptoms but are told they’re normal.
So how does the thyroid work?
The thyroid is a gland in our throat that is controlled by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland releases the thyroid stimulating hormone, TSH, when thyroid hormones get too low. Then the thyroid produces T4 and T3. It generally produces 80% T4 and 20% T3. Then your body has to convert T4 into T3 to use it throughout the body. There are thyroid receptors in every single organ and every single part of our body.
The thyroid works like a thermostat in our house. When the thyroid makes the right amount of thyroid hormones it keeps the temperature just right.
But if the thyroid is overactive, which is called hyperthyroidism, it is making too much T4 and T3. It's like having a thermostat that is set too high, causing the house to overheat. This is definitely going to cause insomnia because you are too energized and have too much of this hormone.
Now if your thermostat isn't active enough and it’s set too low then the house is going to get cold. That's called hypothyroidism which can also cause insomnia.
One sign of hypothyroidism is poor quality sleep and feeling sluggish and tired all the time. I find this is most common when people get their thyroid tested by their doctor and they're told they’re fine, yet they don't feel fine. If you have many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as inability to lose weight, even with diet and exercise, feeling cold all the time, or hair thinning, it’s really frustrating to have those symptoms and be told that everything is normal.
The problems with standard thyroid tests
Why are your results “normal” yet you don’t feel normal? First of all, standard lab tests come back with a normal range. So when tested, your ranges might show that you are normal but the problem is that the standard ranges are actually based on sick people.
Think about it. No healthy person without symptoms walks into a doctor’s office and says “I want my thyroid tested.” Therefore, the lab ranges are based on the extremes of sick people and then anyone in the middle of those ranges is considered normal.
However, there is a huge difference between normal and optimal. You want to be optimal and I’ve learned what the optimal ranges are. Optimal ranges are based on healthy people without any symptoms. So how you interpret these tests is important.
Another issue is that your doctor may not test for enough thyroid markers. I spoke to someone who recently had blood drawn at the hospital and was only tested for TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormone. Her TSH was low and so she was prescribed hormone replacement. But that's not solving the problem of why her TSH is low.
You need many different nutrients to make TSH: iron, iodine, tyrosine, selenium, zinc, vitamins E, C and A and B vitamins. Taking a drug to boost TSH is a band-aid. It isn’t solving the problem of why your body isn't making enough.
Besides TSH, you also want to test for T4 and T3, free and reverse T3 and T4 and thyroid antibodies. Since our bodies need to convert T4 into T3 and that conversion is often the problem with my clients, only testing for TSH and T4 isn’t giving you the big picture you need to fix your thyroid.
It’s like trying to ride your bike and your bike will not pedal. If you only look at the pedal, you're not going to figure it out. You have to look at the entire system - the chain, the cassette, the cable, etc. You need to look at everything that could affect the pedal and not just a pedal itself.
Causes of hypothyroidism
Most cases of hypothyroidism aren’t because there’s actually anything wrong with the thyroid gland itself! Here are some common causes of thyroid issues:
When you’re constantly stressed and your body has to make cortisol to deal with that stress, it deprioritizes anything not necessary to deal with the stressor including making thyroid hormones. You can’t get rid of stress but you can learn tools to deal with it in a positive way so it doesn't affect your health.
2. Chemicals and toxins
Many chemicals in our environment are endocrine disruptors which means they mess with our glands and hormones. Things like BPA in plastics, chlorine in our drinking water, phthalates found in personal care products and pesticides in food all put a toxic burden on your body. Minimizing toxins will help your thyroid work like it's supposed to.
3. Your gut
The gut is so important because your healthy gut bacteria make the enzyme that converts T4 into T3. Any kind of inflammation in the gut, which can be related to having a parasite, leaky gut or food sensitivities (if you missed those posts then definitely go back and take a look), is going to raise cortisol levels and that is going to decrease your T3. This will affect how your thyroid functions. So you have to treat the gut as well as treat the thyroid to get to the bottom of it.
If you find out that you have thyroid issues and you start treating your thyroid but you still have an underlying gut issue, then it's not going to improve over time.It's like being in a leaking boat and continually bailing out the water, but water just keeps pouring in. You have to fix the leak to permanently repair the boat. If you don't address the gut issues that are contributing to the thyroid problems, then you're not going to get better.
4. Your liver
Your liver is responsible for converting 60% of T4 into T3. If your liver isn’t healthy, it can’t do the conversion and you’ll have thyroid symptoms even though there’s nothing wrong with your thyroid. If your liver is congested, it can also cause you to wake up in the night.
I know so many people, women especially, who get their thyroid tested and are told everything is normal. If that's you, please get in touch with me and we can talk about more comprehensive testing to figure out why you aren’t sleeping and what’s truly going on with your thyroid.
If you're not sleeping your body is telling you that something is wrong! and it could be many different things. That's why I look at all these factors: thyroid, hormones, gut health and food sensitivities to get to the root cause of why you aren’t sleeping.
If you’re ready to find out what’s keeping you awake at night, book a call with me. You’ll discover why you can't sleep even though you’ve tried all the things and how to fix it so you can get the sleep you need.