Waking up and actually feeling refreshed.
Feeling like you’re ready to start your day.
But for many hypothyroidism sufferers, the reality is more like this…
And more and more research is coming to light today showing just how important sleep is…
Including a more recent study showing how irregular sleep patterns have been linked to higher rates of cancer.
Sleep issues are one of the top complaints I hear from my clients.
In fact, 36% of my clients claimed insomnia as one of their primary thyroid symptoms. That’s more than 1 out of every 3!
Yet many of my clients have seen drastic improvements not only in their ability to sleep better and longer, but also in their quality of sleep.
I’ll show you how you can too in just a moment.
You see, like many thyroid symptoms, insomnia is a bit of a Catch-22.
Your hypothyroidism disrupts your ability to sleep, yet you need good quality sleep in order to overcome your thyroid issues.
So, what’s the solution?
If your bath water is too hot to bathe in, do you just give up and throw in the towel?
Of course not…
You simply compensate by adding cold water until the water temperature becomes just right.
And like many thyroid symptoms, we fix sleep issues in much the same way.
With my clients, we pinpoint exactly what imbalances exist that are causing their sleep issues and then compensate for those imbalances.
Today, I’m going to show you 7 simple ways to compensate for your hypothyroidism and have you sleeping better, longer, and waking up feeling much more refreshed.
How to Stop Waking Up and Get Back To Sleep Faster
Night waking and not being able to get back to sleep can be stressful in itself.
But you might not realize that it’s the stress caused by your thyroid issues that are keeping you awake in the first place.
If you woke up to the sound of breaking glass in your home could you just roll over and go back to sleep?
Most definitely not!
Odds are you might think someone was trying to break in.
If you got out of bed to find that it was only your cat that knocked a glass off the table, would you then be able to go right back to sleep?
Not by a long shot!
When you are under stress and adrenaline is pumping through your veins, the last thing your body wants to do is sleep.
And when you become hypothyroid, the same exact response occurs inside your body every night… but it’s not caused by broken glass or any other disturbance.
Your ability to sleep and stay asleep depends largely on the health of your liver.
In a previous article on How to Heal Your Thyroid By Healing Your Liver, I covered the importance of liver health in overcoming hypothyroidism.
I showed how when you become hypothyroid, your liver loses the ability to produce and store glycogen.
Glycogen is a form of sugar your body relies on, especially at night when you don’t eat for a long period of time, to prevent your blood sugar from crashing.
And because you don’t store glycogen and don’t eat anything while you sleep, this makes you prone to low blood sugar when sleeping.
This drop in blood sugar triggers the activation of your stress response, where we oftentimes see surges of adrenaline.
And it’s these surges of adrenaline that wake you up and prevent you from going back to sleep.
Adrenaline also naturally rises at night, oftentimes peaking at 2am or 3am in the morning.
This natural rise in adrenaline coupled with the low blood sugar can induce a very dramatic adrenaline spike with some pretty intense and scary reactions.
I’ve had many clients report waking up almost jumping out of bed, breathing heavily, and with heart palpitations… as if they were having a panic attack.
Think you’re going to roll over and get right back to sleep after that?
1. Drop Your Adrenaline with Salted Orange Juice
This one simple little trick I learned from Dr. Raymond Peat has made one of the biggest differences in helping my clients improve their sleep.
Research shows (contrary to popular belief), both sugar and salt help to suppress and regulate your body’s stress response.
A new perspective on glucocorticoid feedback: relation to stress, carbohydrate feeding and feeling better.
“Much of what has precipitated this view comes from a very surprising finding in our laboratory; sucrose ingestion normalizes feeding, energy balance and central corticotropin releasing factor expression in adrenalectomized (ADX) rats.”
Effect of dietary salt restriction on urinary serotonin and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid excretion in man.
RESULTS: During the low-salt diet, 24-h urinary excretion of serotonin increased by 42%, accompanied by a 52% rise in the excretion of 5-HIAA. Salt restriction also increased noradrenaline excretion by 77% and VMA excretion by 40%.
This combination of sugar and salt can be used therapeutically to help prevent the rise of adrenaline at night and to suppress adrenaline if or when it does rise.
In other words, it can help you sleep better and longer, and if you do wake in the middle of the night it can help you to get back to sleep faster and easier.
Before going to bed, simply mix 1/8 tsp. (0.6 ml) of salt into 3 to 4 ounces (90 to 120 ml) of orange juice.
Sip on just one ounce (30 ml) before going to sleep and keep the rest within arm’s reach by your bedside.
If you find yourself waking in the middle of night, don’t get out of bed. Just reach for and sip another ounce (30 ml) of the salted orange to help you get back to sleep.
(NOTE: Want to learn more about how to use salted orange juice to boost your thyroid? Use this super simple 3 Food Triple-Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol.)
2. Put an End to Endotoxin with Carrot Salad and Coconut Oil
Low blood sugar isn’t the only mechanism that stimulates your body’s stress response.
Another lesser-known one is endotoxin.
Endotoxin is toxin produced by bacteria in your gut. Hypothyroidism sufferers are known to have high levels of endotoxin circulating in their bloodstream.
Endotoxin not only increases stress hormone production, it is also known to increase many other stress mediators that further promote stress, including:
Because of this, endotoxin is a common cause of insomnia today.
There are many effective ways to lower endotoxin.
For starters, constipation increases endotoxin absorption, so eliminating constipation is a must.
Yet, one thing that we use with all of our clients to help lower endotoxin is carrot salad.
Carrot salad helps lower endotoxin in a few ways.
- The anti-microbial properties of the carrot fiber help lower the bacterial overgrowth resulting in less endotoxin being produced.
- The carrot fiber itself absorbs endotoxin in the intestines, preventing absorption.
- The coconut oil used in the salad effectively prevents the effects of endotoxin.
I show you how to make your own carrot salad in this article on “How to Boost Your Thyroid in 60-Seconds with a Carrot”.
3. Suppress Stress with Glycine (Collagen)
You may not realize this, but the proteins you eat, and when you eat them, can have a significant effect on your sleep.
Certain sources of protein tend to activate your stress response, while others suppress it.
This is why I never recommend eating muscle meats by themselves in the evening.
Muscle meat is higher in the amino acid tryptophan, which is one that activates stress hormone production.
Other amino acids, such as glycine, have been shown to have the opposite effect by lowering stress and activating GABA receptors, which has a calming effect and can help improve sleep as well.
By balancing nighttime muscle meat with broth or collagen protein, both high in glycine, you can see improvement in your ability to fall asleep easier and sleep longer.
Addressing your high nighttime stress hormones is always a step in the right direction, but for some it’s still not enough.
Maybe your problem is not so much insomnia.
Maybe your problem has more to do with sleep quality and never waking up feeling rested.
How to Stop Hibernating and Start Sleeping Deeply
Are you sleeping or are you hibernating?
Unfortunately for most hypothyroidism sufferers, it’s the latter of the two.
And this is why you might feel tired no matter how much sleep you get.
Hypothyroidism affects sleep in ways other than just keeping you awake.
It affects your ability to achieve deep restful sleep too.
We’ve all heard of hibernation.
In order for many animals to survive the harsh winter months, they go into a state of hibernation in order to lower their metabolism, conserve energy, and survive the cold.
But hibernation is not a form of restful sleep.
As Dr. Raymond Peat points out…
“Torpor [hibernation] is the opposite of restful sleep, and with aging, depression, hypothyroidism, and a variety of brain syndromes, sleep tends toward the hypothermic torpor.”
In other words, hypothyroidism is known to promote a hibernation-like state of sleep that prevents you from reaching the deep sleep state that you need to wake up feeling refreshed.
Instead you wake up feeling like you never went to sleep in the first place.
And it has everything to do with your metabolism.
When you become hypothyroid, your otherwise healthy oxidative metabolism becomes impaired preventing your body from producing the essential nutrient carbon dioxide.
And when your carbon dioxide level falls, your serotonin production rises.
(Side Note: Serotonin is not the happy hormone/neurotransmitter many would have you believe. It’s an activator of stress as covered in this Case Study on the 4 Thyroid-Stress Activators.)
And it’s this rise in serotonin that decreases energy production, lowers body temperature, and promotes torpor, or this hibernation-like state of sleep.
Simply put… without deep regenerative sleep, your chances of improving your thyroid health are slim to none.
So what can you do?
4. Suppress Serotonin and Hibernation with Bag Breathing
If this restless state of sleep occurs because of a lack of carbon dioxide, then an easy way to improve deep restful sleep is to increase your carbon dioxide retention.
There are a number of ways to do this, but I find the most effective and simple way is to use bag breathing.
By breathing in and out of a paper bag you are effectively breathing back in a higher concentration of carbon dioxide.
Doing this on and off for a few minutes is typically enough to build up enough carbon dioxide to have a temporary therapeutic effect.
(IMPORTANT: Do NOT continue past the point of discomfort. Yes, you still need oxygen.)
But this is not a permanent solution. Over time, your levels will decline again.
So, this can also be done multiple times a day but should be used prior to bed to help improve sleep quality.
It can also be used to improve some causes of sleep apnea.
These two quick fixes alone have proven to be extremely effective.
But there’s still one more I would like to share with you which can provide even greater results.
How to Sleep Soundly When Your Cells Can’t Relax
You might think that more tired you become, the better you should sleep.
And from a logical standpoint that makes perfect sense.
But since when has anything regarding hypothyroidism made perfect sense?
Well, actually it does when you think about it.
When you’re hypothyroid and you can’t get thyroid hormone (T3) to your cells, then your cells can’t properly energize and produce the energy they need to function efficiently.
(Note: I’ve covered a number of reasons why you can’t get thyroid hormone to your cells in detail in this previous article on How We Overcome Hypothyroidism When All Else Fails.)
And when you cells can’t properly energize, they actually have a difficult time relaxing.
When your cells can’t relax, it impairs your ability to relax and sleep.
But most people who use thyroid hormone (T3) are not taking advantage of its full potential.
And using it the right way can oftentimes make all the difference.
5. Relax Your Cells with Thyroid Hormone
Most hypothyroidism sufferers who use T3, use it during the day.
But what about nighttime?
T3 has a relatively short half-life, meaning that when you take it, it only remains active in your body for a short period of time.
Oftentimes by nighttime, any T3 you’ve taken earlier in the day is no longer active and your cells become weakened and agitated.
Using T3 properly and even in small amounts before bed can help to restore energy production allowing your cells to relax and you to sleep.
Plus, thyroid hormone is known to suppress the stress response (including adrenaline) as well as stimulate oxidative metabolism to increase carbon dioxide concentration in your body.
So, its therapeutic effects on sleep are far reaching.
(Warning: It’s important that this is done properly. Some people respond negatively to T3 due to certain nutritional deficiencies and in this case, T3 can make you more sensitive to the effects of adrenaline, which will have the opposite effect on your sleep. So, if you are unsure of how you will respond, then it’s best to experiment with this on a night you can afford to miss some sleep if you’re among the small percentage of those who do.)
6. Manage Your Magnesium
Hypothyroidism, overproduction of stress hormones, and estrogen all contribute to magnesium wasting.
So, it should be no surprise that hypothyroidism sufferers are typically chronically deficient in magnesium.
And magnesium is essential for both proper thyroid function and cellular energy production.
This is one of the ways that magnesium improves sleep, by improving energy production and allowing your cells to relax.
But, you shouldn’t just use any source of magnesium.
(Note: You can learn more about why I don’t recommend most magnesium supplements in this article on hypothyroidism and magnesium.)
For improving sleep, I generally recommend Epsom salt baths in the evening.
You can even enhance the effectiveness of your bath by sipping on some salted orange juice with gelatin.
7. Protect Against Darkness with Light Therapy
Darkness is a stress to your body.
It elevates stress hormones and lowers your metabolism.
One of the purposes of sleep is to protect us against the negative effects of darkness.
With hypothyroidism, when metabolism is already running low, darkness can lower it even further, sometimes even to dangerous levels.
So, in much the same way that thyroid hormone (T3) and magnesium help to increase energy production, allowing your cells to relax…
…light therapy can have the same effect.
Light therapy (how we use it) helps activate an important metabolic enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase, which is essential for healthy cellular energy production, and relaxation.
You can build your own thyroid light therapy lamp using the instructions I provide in this article on “How to Build Your Own Thyroid-Boosting Light Therapy Lamp”.
Advanced Solution #1: The 4-Step Thyroid-Insomnia Sleep Solution
(NOTE: This is a more advanced sleep fix that we use with some of our clients if/when needed. If you haven’t yet implemented the 7 Simple Sleep Fixes described above, click here because you’ll want to start there first.)
Are you still waking up in the middle of the night and lying awake for hours?
If so, you’re not alone.
You are probably experiencing an adrenaline spike.
As noted above, adrenaline naturally rises and peaks during the night, often around 2am – 3am.
It’s no coincidence that this is a common time that insomnia strikes.
When adrenaline is quite excessive, sipping salted orange juice or bag breathing when you wake up isn’t always enough.
As the saying goes… “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
So, if you are constantly experiencing this type of sleep issue, it’s often a better idea to focus on preventing the problem before it happens rather than trying to fix it after it does.
Preventing the Underlying Thyroid-Insomnia Issue
Minimizing the effects of adrenaline and stress hormones isn’t something we should only worry about at night.
If stress hormones rise at any point during the day, then it can be difficult to bring them back down.
So, to minimize the nighttime adrenaline spike, we need to keep blood sugar regulated and steady all day long for best sleep.
This means, first and foremost, eating healthy foods, regularly throughout the day.
NOTE: Not sure what foods are considered “healthy” for hypothyroidism? Check out these two articles:
- The 3 Essential Thyroid Diet Rules All Thyroid Sufferers Should Follow (…But Don’t)
- How to Fix This BIG Thyroid Diet Mistake Using the Nutrient-Activation Principle
Or, if you’re just looking for an easy way to get started then make sure you check out the 3 Food Triple-Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol.
If you are already following our dietary guidelines, and you are still experiencing insomnia, then there is a more serious intervention that we use with our clients. I recommend you try it too.
To do this properly, you’ll want to spend a few nights noting the time at which insomnia wakes you most frequently.
Once you get a better idea of your insomnia patterns, start setting a soft alarm to wake you 45 minutes to 1 hour prior to when insomnia strikes.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but there’s a good reason for this.
At this time, you should have a more substantial snack to refuel your blood sugar before it drops too low, and to help prevent your adrenaline from spiking (the underlying cause of your insomnia).
Different people can require different amounts of nutrition. However, a snack like a piece of fruit & cheese often does the trick.
It’s best for your midnight snack to be something simple that you can keep by your bedside and eat with little difficulty.
If possible, you don’t want to have to get out of bed, go to the kitchen and prepare food, since that would wake yourself up more than necessary, making it more difficult to fall back asleep.
After your snack, try to relax and go back to sleep.
Using this simple process to better regulate your blood sugar levels at night can help minimize your nighttime adrenaline spike and help you to get longer stretches of continuous deep sleep.
Over time, clients often report that as their sleep cycles improve, they no longer require a midnight snack to help them sleep through the night.
(NOTE: Are you diabetic, or do you have a hard time regulating your blood sugar? If so, check out this article, “Hypothyroidism and Diabetes: How to Reverse It and Why Sugar Is NOT the Problem.)
To recap, the idea behind this more advanced intervention is:
- Track your sleep/wake patterns.
- Set a soft alarm about an hour before insomnia strikes.
- Eat a simple snack such as fruit and cheese.
- Relax and fall back asleep.
And don’t forget, it’s essential to manage your blood sugar levels throughout both the day and night for this to be truly effective.
Following this process can allow you to get the rest you need to feel good and have the energy you need make the most out of your day.
So there you have it…
Seven simple ways to start sleeping better, longer, and wake up feeling refreshed.
Plus, I’ve shared with you an advanced thyroid-insomnia solution that we use with our clients when needed.
But more importantly, these are eight ways to help you compensate for your thyroid-related sleep issues so that you can actually create the balance needed for your body and thyroid to heal.
And while all of these simple tips are designed to be used at night, there’s a lot more you need to be doing during the day that can make a big difference too.
For example, keeping your stress hormones low all throughout the day is key to keeping them lower at night, making your sleep easier.
One of the simplest ways to do that is to use our 3 Food Triple-Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol.
If you’re not using this daily protocol, then download it right now and get started today.
See for yourself the difference it can make as you start your days feeling calm, clear, and full of energy.
Don’t let your sleep issues get in your way.
Starting using these seven simple tips today and see just how big of a difference they can make with your sleep.
1. Peters, Brandon. “How to Determine If Thyroid Dysfunction Causes Your Sleep Problems.” Verywell Health, 14 Mar. 2019, www.verywellhealth.com/thyroid-hormones-sleep-disorders-3014705.
2. Trentini, Dana. “18 Things Thyroid Patients Can Do To Beat Insomnia.” Hypothyroid Mom, 18 Sept. 2018, www.hypothyroidmom.com/18-things-thyroid-patients-can-do-to-beat-insomnia/.
3. Bowers, Elizabeth Shimer. “7 Ways to Sleep Better When You Have Hypothyroidism.” EverydayHealth.com, Everyday Health, 4 Mar. 2015, www.everydayhealth.com/hs/healthy-living-with-hypothyroidism/sleep-better/.