Sleep is a crucial element in our overall health. We all know that. However, with Hashimoto’s Disease, it is not always easy to get the right amount of sleep. There are two camps of sleepers in the Hasimoto’s community. One camp is exhausted no matter how much sleep they get, which is typically a lot due to exhaustion. Then there is the second camp of Hashimoto’s insomniacs (the one I fall into). We are exhausted all day, but when it comes time to start counting sheep, can’t seem to fall asleep. The common theme in both camps is exhaustion. Since I fall into the latter camp, insomnia will be the focus of this post.
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Why Insomnia is Common for Hashimoto’s Sufferers
Some people say they are jealous of those of us who can’t catch zzzs. However, they have the wrong idea about insomnia. It’s not as though I am wide-awake and have boundless energy. Nope. I am wide-awake, exhausted and stuck in a state I refer to as twilight. Kind of awake, kind of asleep, but not getting the benefits of either. To discuss possible solutions, let’s first review six specific causes of insomnia in Hashimoto’s. With each cause, I present a possible solution.
One word commonly associated with Hashimoto’s is inflammation. Inflammation wreaks havoc on our bodies and increases our stress hormones in response. So, even if you don’t happen to feel stressed out, your body is still responding to the inflammation by pumping out stress hormones
“Once this chronic inflammation comes into play, it increases the body’s levels of cytokines, which interfere with normal sleep. They’re supposed to play the role of messenger molecules that put your system on red alert to signal that something is wrong. However, when inflammation is chronic they just carry on all through the night, like a griping baby.” states Jenny Paul on Luminty
Solution Commit to an anti-inflammatory diet with no gluten or dairy. Personally, I sleep best when I eliminate all grains. You should experiment with your diet to see which foods most impact your sleep. Other causes of inflammation include processed foods and toxins commonly found in cleaning products and some personal care items. I’ll share more on flushing out the chemicals in your body in a future post. If you can’t wait for my post and want to dive in now, check out Leah Segedie’s book Green Enough.
It is an amazing resource! Below is a quick overview on how to reduce inflammation.
- Quit gluten and dairy
- Reduce your exposure to toxins, starting with your cleaning supplies, personal care and beauty products
- Go grain free
- Remove processed food from your diet
- Reduce or eliminate refined sugar, which is known to cause inflammation. If you need a good resource to change your diet, check out sites like Whole 30 or an AIP (Auto Immune Protocol) site such as the My Wellness Workshop Challenge.
When you feel tired, it’s tempting to reach for caffeine to get you through the day. I get it! However, when you lean on these foods and drinks for energy, the caffeine can be really disruptive to your sleep cycle. Did you know caffeine stays in your system for up to 6 hours?
Solution I understand not wanting to give up your coffee or tea. If that is the case, keep it to one or two cups in the morning and nothing after noon. If you are like me, a morning person, late afternoon is when I feel like I hit a brick wall. Instead of grabbing a cup of Joe, try one of these three tips:
- Cardio Burn Increasing your heart rate pumps more blood into your body and releases endorphins (our happy and energetic hormone. LOVE these guys). You don’t need to squeeze in an hour’s worth of cardio to feel the positive effects. Just 10 minutes will typically carry you through an afternoon slump. Do some jumping jacks or even run up and down some stairs.
- Get Outside Getting vitamin D into your system is an instant energy boost, especially if you are consistent with your sun exposure. Additionally, being outside and in nature (a small office park works) is known to increase your happiness levels and decrease stress.
- Stretch Not feeling the need for a cardio burn or outside time? Then try deep stretches. Stretching also gets your blood flowing and increases your energy levels. Bonus points if you close out your stretching session with a headstand. Whenever I crave sugar, I pop up into a headstand. The craving goes away and I feel better. But I know not everyone will go upside down on a regular basis. I am goofy that way.
Ah sugar. You are my nemesis and great love all in one. Some of people, with or without Hashimoto’s, are sensitive to sugar just like others are sensitive to caffeine. And there are those, like me, who are sensitive to both. Here’s the thing: if you eat clean and then splurge on a high sugar treat (hello, Snickers bar), it is going to be a shock to your system. Since I cut it out of my diet, I get even more wired from sugar than I did before, and the impact lasts longer than I would like. Even if you aren’t sensitive, sugar is still messing with your sleep patterns. Higher blood sugar means less long-lasting fat metabolism during the night, and that results in sleep loss. So, there is another reason to quit sugar.
Solution Quit sugar or at least minimize it. Like caffeine, try not to consume sugar in the afternoon. Try not to eat any after 4pm.
It turns out, a glass of wine before bed is hindering, not helping, you fall sleep. Alcohol is known to interfere with sleep and cause random awakenings at night. In the body, alcohol disrupts your circadian rhythm, directly conflicting and shaking your master biological clock. Your circadian rhythm regulates everything from your energy and sleep to moods and sex drive. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal to mess with those! In addition, most alcohol is high in sugar, and we just talked about how sugar messes with your sleep.
Solution While a glass of wine before you hit the sheets may sound appealing, skip the wine and go for yoga or meditation instead.
#5 Blue Light
The lure of smartphones and laptops is hard to resist. Heck, I meditate with my smartphone using the Insight App, so attempting to shut out blue light before bed seems especially challenging.
“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” said Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, corresponding author and associate neuroscientist in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Participants reading a light-emitting e-book took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock, and reduced next-morning alertness.”
Solution Grab an old school paper book instead of a tablet for reading before bed. Most electronic devices have a Sleep or Night Mode option to help eliminate the adverse effects of blue light.
As a woman in her upper forties, my hormones are absolutely messing with my ability to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation,
“61 percent of perimenopausal and postmenopausal women report frequent bouts of insomnia. With age your production of estrogen and progesterone decrease. Unfortunately, these hormones help promote sleep, so you notice them when they are start to go down.”
Solution Keep it cool to help ward off hot flashes. Keep your room temperature cool and your pajamas light. Most importantly, talk to a doctor who can give you options for regulating your hormones, which could be your root cause.
These are my insomnia tricks. Do you have any tips for getting more and higher quality sleep?
Resources Used When Writing This Post