Is Your Thyroid Making You Exhausted?

Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism and the Link to Fatigue, Exhaustion & Tiredness

Mixed race woman sitting in bed
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Fatigue and severe exhaustion can be key symptoms of thyroid conditions. Unfortunately, for some patients, fatigue persists, even after treatment for the thyroid condition. Here is a look at the connection between fatigue and various thyroid problems.

Fatigue in Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism

Some people with hyperthyroidism find themselves completely exhausted. This can be due to the insomnia and difficulty sleeping that is common with an overactive thyroid -- known as hyperthyroidism.

It can also be due to the stress on the body of having a rapid pulse, higher blood pressure, diarrhea, tremors and other symptoms of hyperthyroidism. To help understand more about Graves' Disease symptoms, see my Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism Checklist of symptoms and risk factors. For information on diagnosis and treatment, see Graves' Disease and Hyperthyroidism: An Overview, which goes through most of the important information regarding Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism.

Fatigue in Hashimoto's Disease and Hypothyroidism

For many patients such as myself, one noticeable sign that thyroid levels are getting too high and dosages may need to be adjusted is the onset of bone-numbing fatigue. This sign of hypothyroidism often comes on suddenly, and leaves you barely able to lift your head off the pillow in the morning. You may feel like you can't get through a day without a nap, or you sleep more than usual but still feel exhausted.

If you are experiencing this fatigue, frequently seen along with other symptoms you'll find on my Hypothyroidism Symptoms Checklist, the problem may be that your hypothyroidism is undertreated. If your thyroid treatment is optimized, then it's time to look into a simpler issue -- are you getting enough sleep?

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

According to data released by the National Sleep Foundation, two out of every ten Americans sleep less than six hours a night, substantially less than the recommended 8 hours. The average person gets 7 hours of sleep a night, and 40% of adults say that they are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with their daily activities.

I am one of those people who does NOT do well on less than 7 1/2 to 8 hours. But just with the general business of living (and particularly lately, with a toddler) getting that much sleep is a luxury I've rarely enjoyed in many years. I keep wanting to blame my thyroid, but after a few nights when I actually get 8 or more hours and feel much much better and more energetic, I've realized that, to a large extent, my problem is sleep deprivation, compounded by a slightly increased general need for more sleep due to the thyroid problem, even if it is treated. So if I usually needed 7 1/2 -8 hours, and my thyroid disease adds a bit more of a need, let's say a half hour to an hour a night, that's 8-8 1/2 hours, and if I'm getting 6-7, then I'm pretty sleep deprived.

Thyroid Disease and Sleep Apnea

There is also a relationship between an increased incidence of sleep apnea (brief periods when you stop breathing while sleeping) and hypothyroidism. Frequent apnea can also cause unrelieved exhaustion. Apnea is often also seen in conjunction with snoring. For more information on apnea and other sleep disorders, and how they can be treated, see What is Sleep Apnea?.

When Fatigue is Chronic

If you suspect that your fatigue is more than just sleep deprivation, you might also want to read Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease.


National Sleep Foundation 2009 Poll

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