Sleep! It’s such an important thing. As Americans a lot of us are inclined to shrug it off, act like we are heroes for not getting enough. The I didn’t sleep for two days and look at what I got done Syndrome! For trying to plow through our days with not enough rest. Sleep deprivation will catch up to you eventually. For those of us with thyroid disease, getting proper rest is even more crucial. Lack of sleep will tax the bodies resources, and can drain all our reserves even faster than a healthy person. Some of the signs of chronic sleep deprivation according to Webmd are: Decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, poor quality of life, stress on a relationship,automobile injury or occupational injury. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to hurt themselves or others driving cars or operating machinery. Don’t be that person!
With a thyroid disorder, sleep becomes a major part of your life. When you are hyperthyroid, odds are good you are having insomnia and when you do sleep it’s not restful. When you are hypothyroid, then odds are good you are sleeping constantly, but again, it’s not restful. Either way if you do sleep, it’s not enough to counter the siege your body is under dealing with not enough or too much thyroid hormones running through your body. Disruptions in sleep is often one of the first signs a person has that their thyroid is not working properly.
I have several experiences with sleep issues. When I was first diagnosed with Graves’ disease, I was already very hyperthyroid. Within a month of diagnosis I went from sleeping fitfully maybe 4-5 hours a night, to maybe getting 1-2 hours a night. My partner at the time reported that even when I slept I twitched and moved around the entire time. My entire system was so revved up. I was exhausted, I got to the point I voluntarily gave up my car keys as I knew I was dangerous on the road. One of the worst things for me about being hyper was the “wired and tired” that I existed in.
Then I had RAI, and the dose was high enough that it flipped me into hypo within just a couple of weeks. Basically it’s like going 100mph and then hitting a brick wall. Your body goes from revved up and burning through energy, to barely having the energy to move. I went from 1-2 hours of sleeping to 10 to 15 hours of sleeping within a month, and STILL feeling exhausted. I was never so happy to have my thyroid levels finally get to mid range normal. To this day I know to get my thyroid levels checked if either of those two scenarios start happening again.
My sleep issues weren’t over though. In 2013, I started having problems with balance. It felt like I was drunk, like some sort of super vertigo. I started to walk with a cane. Then while driving my car all the sudden I couldn’t judge distances, and hit a wall on an underpass and broke my side view mirror, that crashed into my side window, shattering it. That was my wake up call. Something was really wrong. I also noticed that when trying to write with a pen my hand would shake uncontrollably at times. I started noticing when I typed I would use the wrong word, and not even notice it, even when going back. I quit my part time job and started seeing various doctors. No one seemed to know what was going on, CT scans came back fine for my brain, blood tests showed nothing. One day I was out walking and I fainted and fell into a ditch, bloodying my knees and twisting my ankle. My husband took me to the ER to get checked out, and they admitted me. Over the two day stay, I saw several doctors. It was a cardiologist who finally had an idea. They had me fitted with an oxygen meter overnight and found out my breathing was going down to 20% several times an hour. When I got out of the hospital I was sent to a sleep specialist who sent me for a sleep study. Now my husband has sleep apnea and he was saying no way I had sleep apnea as I never snore, he knows what sleep apnea sounds like!
I went for the sleep study. Waited a week or two for the results, no one called me. So went in for the follow up appointment and got the surprise of my life! My results had come in, I had experienced 20 apneas an hour and another 10 hypopneas (shallow breathing) in that same hour. I has sleep apnea! They think I have mostly central sleep apnea, because I have no evidence of anything blocking my airwaves when I sleep. In fact I had just lost 30 pounds before I started to have issues. So grudgingly I got the CPAP and started using it. One week later my vertigo was almost gone. Two weeks later the tremors in my hand stopped and by a month I was back to where I used to be. My energy was up and I was thinking properly again. My sleep doctor told me that I was an unusual case as I didn’t show any of the typical signs of sleep apnea. The fact that I have Graves’ disease probably didn’t help the matter. Being sleepy all the time, well, that could be explained by thyroid levels. Headaches could have been caused by my allergies, and so on.
So I am a believer. Sleep is much more important that people realize and if you don’t sleep well, it can affect you. It may take it’s toll over months or years, but eventually it WILL catch you up.
Besides the CPAP I use, I also practice good sleep hygiene. Click the link for some good tips on how to get a better nights sleep yourself.
Check out Warriorbutterflies.com for more thyroid related content, or see Britney on twitter at @BttrflyBritney