Sleep and Hypothyroidism

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The inability to sleep can be a direct affect of being hypothyroid.  Whether its trouble getting to sleep or the inability to stay asleep – sleep is one of the most common issues people struggle with daily.

It can also be one of the easiest to fix and alone can yield you the greatest amount of positive influence over your health and wellbeing.

Lets begin by pointing out anything that stresses or over stimulates the body will inhibit sleep.


Because your sleep, or your inability to sleep, has everything to do with your ability to regulate your cortisol rhythms.

At this point you are probably well aware of the variety of roles cortisol plays in your overall health, particularly stress. However, you may not be as well aware of cortisols relationship to your circadian rhythm. An important characteristic of cortisol you need to understand if you are to gain deeper insight into exactly what is happening in your body during each day.

Circadian Rhythm is a term used to describe the ebb and flow of cortisol levels in the body over the course of a 24-hour time period. These rhythms are controlled from the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) that resides in the hypothalamus and is responsible for helping every human being maintain a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle.

Cortisol levels (influenced by the light of day) are highest in the morning and signal your body the day has begun. While cortisol works to rouse us from our slumber, the adrenals and brain quickly go to work to produce the hormones we need to function throughout the day.

Cortisol levels begin to decline as the morning progresses, while at the same time metabolic processes increase, reaching their highpoint, along with core body temperature and pulse (a pattern we track using body temperature and pulse as a tool to help regulate circadian rhythms).

As the day progresses, and afternoon turns to evening, cortisol levels continue to decline, metabolism slows, body temperature drops and serotonin gets converted to melatonin working to induce sleepiness. Your body has a very specific time clock and as the daylight recedes your body prepares you for rest and recovery.

Essentially, this would be the optimal time to end the day and retire to bed. A habit not practiced by many and even when there is a valid effort being put forth, you find yourself tossing and turning, staring at the wall, counting sheep, whatever you may do when you lay awake hour after hour trying to get to sleep.

Hypothyroidism and Circadian Rhythms

You wanna throw a wrench into your circadian rhythms, hypothyroidism or low cellular energy production will do the job!


Because it is a chronic stress to the body, which means even when the body is not suppose to release cortisol it must to compensate for low energy production. This creates yet another stress, which then creates another stress and so on and so forth.

When the body is in a chronically stressed state the body has to produce high levels of cortisol throughout the day causing the HPA axis to break down. The body receives faulty messages and when cortisol levels should be elevated they are low and when they should be low they are elevated.

In this vicious cycle, the body is being told cortisol is needed at times it shouldn’t be. Like when your body should be preparing for sleep and while you are sleeping.

In addition, blood sugar naturally falls at night as a result of fasting. During this time the body relies on stored glycogen from the liver for energy. Anytime blood sugar begins to drop adrenaline and cortisol begin to rise. This particular fluctuation naturally begins to occur almost as soon as a person goes to bed.

Hypothyroid people store very little to no glycogen so when this natural fluctuation begins to occur adrenaline and cortisol are released in excess.

Naturally adrenaline peaks between 1-3am, while cortisol peaks around dawn in preparation for the new day. Some people wake up during the adrenaline peak with a pounding heart and have trouble getting back to sleep.

Simple solutions to restore circadian rhythms and get back to sleep

Address your biggest stressor. Blood sugar levels are one of the most regulated activities of the body because is it so critical to our survival. When levels fall too high or too low the body senses this as a stress and begins implementing survival responses (stress response ie. cortisol).

Regulation of blood sugar is important to many hormones   and various nutrients. Insulin and potassium play a role in keeping blood sugar levels down while glucagon, cortisol, adrenaline, growth hormone and thyroid hormone increase blood sugar levels.

Providing your body with optimal fuel every 2-3 hours is essential to pulling the body out of the vicious cycle of stress it gets pulled into when fuel storages are deficient. The more chronically deficient you are, the more frequent you will need to eat. **It is important to remember this looks very different for every body.

Over time, as your system heals, your liver will become much more efficient at storing glycogen and releasing glucose to your cells as needed throughout the day and while sleeping.

As this occurs you will be able to go longer period of time between meals without it being such a huge stress to your body.

Most importantly, regulating your blood sugar will help restore your cortisol rhythms (circadian rhythms) therefore getting you back to sleep.

Cold showers before bedtime.

When we consciously come into a stressful experience (ie. cold shower) that deepens and accelerates our breathing, our nervous system reacts differently. The body realizes there is not real danger and is facing a challenge on the conscious level.

A cold shower is a situation of energetic overload, which causes us to accelerate our breathing, tense up or even hold our breath. But in reality we are in a stable and safe environment through the conscious decision to be there.

This is an example of Hormesis; toxins in small doses can have healing effects. When we correlated this with breathing in a cold shower, it means that the stress is more of a eustress (positive) vs a distress (negative). You are improving stress resilience by being in control of your breathing, autonomic nervous system (ANS) and therefore your overall physiology. With this practice you begin to learn how to endure stress, regenerate and recover.

How to…
60s warm shower/30s cold shower (titrate to your liking)
When the water is warm: nose-nose controlled hyperventilation x 20, then hold breath for 15-30s. When you release your breath recover through the nose.
When the water is cold: inhale through the nose and exhale through the nose as slow as you can.
Repeat 3-4x

Avoid exercise before bedtime. Exercise can be a good stress or a bad stress. When performed following a long day of go, go, go in compounded with poor food frequency, low caloric intake and poor food choices, exercise can easily induce excitation therefore elevating cortisol at a time your body is trying to prepare for rest.

The goal would not be to omit the exercise entirely but to modify the intensity, length and volume to meet your body where it is in the healing process. The correct time to exercise and the type of exercise just right for you can easily be determined by taking a couple days to track your metabolic patterns using body temperature and pulse.

P.S. Before you go, we’d love to hear from you! If you have a few minutes please stop by and share your personal sleep successes or challenges.

If you are struggling with your sleep and want some support to get you sleeping again, feel free to contact us directly here.


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Share Your Thoughts

  1. Kelly

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Great article , i hsve followed your teachings and sleep is somewhat improved, but this explains so much!

    December 6, 2017 • 10:11 am •
  2. East West Healing

    Hi Kelly,

    Awesome! Glad we can help connect some dots for you!

    December 7, 2017 • 1:41 pm •
  3. Great Article. We will be sharing this in our upcoming newsletter. Love the breathing stuff at the end.

    December 18, 2017 • 5:24 am •
  4. EastWest Healing

    Much appreciated!

    December 20, 2017 • 1:20 pm •
  5. This is a great read; thank you for sharing. It’s true that sleep quality can have a direct effect not only on hypothyroid but also to the overall quality of life. Following the right nutrition and a healthy lifestyle can further improve our sleep cycle.Thanks again

    March 8, 2018 • 7:18 am •
  6. EastWest Healing

    Thank you for your support.

    March 26, 2018 • 9:04 am •