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The Interplay Between Sleep and Thyroid Physiology

Sleep and thyroid function are two critical components of not only hormonal health but overall health. These system relationships are more intertwined than one might think. All play pivotal roles in metabolic regulation, energy production, and overall well-being. 


In terms of sleep, thyroid dysfunction can have a significant impact. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause fatigue and excessive tiredness, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Conversely, an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can lead to insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns due to increased energy levels and restlessness.


Let’s start with a brief review or overview of the thyroid gland: 


The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces hormones that regulate metabolism, energy expenditure, and body temperature. The primary hormones (not to be confused with only hormones) produced by the thyroid are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones play crucial roles in numerous physiological processes, including:


  • Metabolic rate regulation

  • Protein synthesis

  • Growth and development

  • Neurological function



Sleep and Thyroid Hormone Production

Thyroid hormone production follows a diurnal rhythm, very similar to that of cortisol, with levels peaking during the early morning hours and reaching their lowest point in the late afternoon and evening. This is why timing of blood work matters. This rhythm is closely tied to the sleep-wake cycle, with sleep deprivation and disturbances significantly affecting thyroid hormone secretion.


Sleep Deprivation and Thyroid Function

Chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with alterations in thyroid function. 


Sleep restriction can lead to:

  • Decreased TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels being released from the Pituitary Gland

  • Reduced T4 and T3 production from the Thyroid

  • Altered thyroid hormone metabolism


These changes can have profound effects on metabolic rate, energy levels, hormone production and overall health as a whole, potentially contributing to inflammation, weight gain, fatigue, and other symptoms associated with hypothyroidism. One added note on the correlation of these would be noting that sleep deprivation can also increase cortisol levels, increase blood pressure, increase blood sugar and affect sex hormones. All of which can affect thyroid function. 



Thyroid Dysfunction and Sleep Quality


Thyroid dysfunction encompasses a range of conditions that can affect the production, secretion, and metabolism of thyroid hormones. These conditions can be broadly categorized into primary, secondary, and autoimmune disorders, including Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease. The reasons for the body's defense system or danger response to result in dysfunction requires a deeper discussion. For the scope of this blog, we will focus on two generalized types of thyroid dysfunction that commonly impact sleep quality: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.


Hypothyroidism 

Hypothyroidism is often associated with poor sleep quality. People with hypothyroidism may experience:

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Frequent nighttime awakenings

  • Non-restorative sleep

  • Excessive daytime fatigue


Hyperthyroidism 

On the other hand, hyperthyroidism, an overproduction of thyroid hormones, can also disrupt sleep patterns. Patients with hyperthyroidism may report:

  • Difficulty maintaining sleep

  • Increased sleep latency

  • Restless sleep

  • Insomnia


Interplay Between Sleep, Thyroid Function, and Female Sex Hormones

Sleep quality and duration can influence female sex hormone levels, including testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. Disruptions in sleep can lead to hormonal imbalances, affecting menstrual cycle regularity, fertility, and overall reproductive health. Conversely, fluctuations in female sex hormones can influence thyroid function and sleep patterns, creating a complex interplay between these systems.


To read more on thyroid and reproductive health check out THIS is an amazing blog. 


The Bidirectional Relationship: Sleep, Thyroid and Women’s Hormonal Health.


The relationship between sleep, thyroid function, and women's reproductive health is bidirectional, meaning that disturbances in one can influence the others.


For example:

  • Sleep disturbances can exacerbate thyroid dysfunction and disorders, contributing to disease progression and affecting reproductive health. (which goes beyond childbearing.) Check out THIS blog

  • Thyroid dysfunction can impair sleep quality and duration, further exacerbating metabolic and hormonal dysfunction, including those related to reproductive health.

  • Reproductive hormone dysfunction and hormonal decline associated with aging can negatively impact sleep and thyroid function all of which will affect overall health



“Sleep is not an optional activity, it's a biological necessity.” -Matthew Walker


Strategies for Optimizing Sleep, Thyroid Health, and Reproductive Health


Lifestyle Modifications

  • Prioritize sleep hygiene: Establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a calming bedtime routine.

  • Kick the Alcohol: It may relax you but it is not improving your sleep quality or health in any way. Looking towards other relaxation techniques such as breathing, yoga, meditation, coloring, reading, taking a walk, etc. 

  • Optimize your sleep environment: Cool temperatures, mattress and pillow quality

  • Balanced nutrition: Maintain a diet rich in nutrients essential for thyroid function and hormonal balance, such as selenium, zinc, sodium, and potassium.

  • Stress resilience and management: Highly individualized, but something we think applies to everyone is asking “what brings you joy?” 

  • Consider water quality

  • Consider endocrine disrupting burden: perfume, scented body lotions, candles, etc



Other Interventions

  • Address underlying sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or insomnia, through targeted treatments

  • Addressing digestive health (can have a big carry over in the above things)

  • For females assess menstrual cycle health and reproductive age  as a contributing factor of sleep disturbances and support appropriately

  • Consider full blood work (this is should be in conjunction with the above point) 


Addressing thyroid dysfunction and optimizing sleep quality are essential for maintaining reproductive health and overall well-being.  If reproductive health is not in an optimal place this can affect sleep quality and duration thus affecting thyroid health. Optimal function of these interconnected systems is essential for maintaining overall health and quality of life in women. 


If you have questions or would like to discuss a tailored approach to your health. Reach out to our coaches today. We have have several options between 1 on 1 coaching to consultation work. 





Disclaimer: This blog  is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders and sleep-related issues.


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