Do you struggle with getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis? Whether it is trouble falling asleep, issues with staying asleep, or difficulty with even feeling tired at night, it’s all a type of insomnia.
When you have Hashimoto’s, insomnia is a common occurrence that can be frustrating to figure out. It also makes the classic Hashimoto’s fatigue much worse. There are a few main culprits that cause insomnia that can help a majority of people. By focusing on these areas you can help get better sleep while also helping the root cause of Hashimoto’s.
After reading this article, you will understand how to help improve your Hashimoto’s insomnia with definite actions you can take today.
Start with sleep hygiene
Starting with the basics – are you setting yourself up for quality sleep. Many of us are up late, doing something around the house or watching TV. We expect to feel tired when we’re ready to sleep, but that feeling doesn’t come. So instead we sit in bed until late at night, looking at the TV or our phone. This is common (I’ve been guilty of it!) But it does not set your body up for a good night’s sleep.
Our natural rhythm of decreasing cortisol and rising melatonin around 8-9pm makes us tired and want to sleep. But when we look at a screen or continue to ‘push through’ sleepiness, we reawaken our cortisol and it begins to rise. This keeps us awake and makes it very difficult to get to sleep.
If this sounds familiar, here are a few ways to create good sleep hygiene that will help you reduce the Hashimoto’s insomnia:
- Choose a regular bedtime (around 10pm fits into more circadian rhythms)
- Make sure your bedroom is cool, comfortable, dark, and undisturbed as much as possible
- About an hour before bed, start to turn off lights, get ready for bed, and do something relaxing. Finish up any tasks on you phone or computer.
- Around 15 minutes before bedtime, get into bed and create a calming ritual
- Enjoy a warm, calming tea (see suggestions below)
- Do deep breathing
- Listen to a sleep or relaxation meditation, listen to calming sounds, or do a body scan meditation
- Do not look at your phone!
- Let yourself drift off to sleep
This simple routine can help with falling asleep and staying asleep.
Stress, inflammation and insomnia
If your sleep routine is calming but you still can’t sleep, the next area to consider is stress and/or inflammation. If your Hashimoto’s is not yet under control, inflammation is going to be present, which is a stress on the body. In this case, the biggest benefit will be to find your food or other triggers and work towards Hashimoto’s remission (which is definitely possible!)
Other types of stress can affect sleep as well:
- anxious, racing thoughts
- busy days
- difficult situations happening
- overly intense exercise
- boredom, low mood, and so on.
When any type of stress has been chronic, it can cause a dysregulated HPA axis (formally called adrenal fatigue) because of cortisol. When we’re constantly in flight-or-fight mode our adrenals are constantly excreting cortisol to help us deal with the “danger”. After many weeks or months the adrenals get ‘fatigued’ and will start excreting less and less cortisol even when the stressor remains the same. Both high and low cortisol can disrupt sleep patterns.
To repair your adrenals and normalize cortisol levels, focus on stress management. Learning techniques to fully calm your body after a stressful day will do wonders. You can do this by:
- Meditation for stress
- Body scan meditation
- Yoga for stress
- Brisk walking for at least 30 minutes
- Enjoy a fun hobby
- Talk it out with a therapist
- Laugh (Parks and Rec always does it for me!)
Also, give your adrenals the nutritional support they need: magnesium, Vitamins B5, B6, E, and C, omega-3s. These nutrients are found in many colorful vegetables, seeds, beans, poultry, and fish.
Magnesium and Hashimoto’s insomnia
Magnesium is a very important mineral in our body. It is involved in over 300 processes including energy production, immune function, nerve regulation, muscle relaxation, bone health, making neurotransmitters and more.
A deficiency can cause insomnia because magnesium helps produce serotonin which is then turned into melatonin (or sleep hormone). It is also one of the first nutrients depleted with chronic stress.
Many people are deficient in magnesium, which causes many symptoms:
- Low mood
- PMS cramps
- Heart palpitations
- Sensitivity to loud noises
- Poor sleep quality and insomnia
One study showed that 500mg of magnesium daily helped patients:
- Fall asleep faster
- Increased sleep time
- Had increased melatonin
- Had decreased cortisol
All the things you need for better sleep! If you have been struggling with sleep for a while, magnesium is definitely one of the first things to try. There aren’t many times I recommend a supplement over the food source, but in this case a concentrated amount will be helpful.
There are several types of magnesium supplements – I typically recommend magnesium glycinate for sleep issues. Please ask your health care practitioner which one is right for you.
Foods and supplements to help Hashimoto’s insomnia
Now, I couldn’t get through an article on sleep without mentioning caffeine! As we all know, caffeine gives us energy. Some people quickly metabolize the caffeine and it is out of their system in a few hours. Some people metabolize it slowly so the effects stay around for up to 15 hours!
And, YES – your body can change. Just because you could drink coffee all day a few years ago does not mean the same now!
It is a good idea to eliminate caffeine after 12pm if you have sleep issues. I know that’s difficult! There are many great substitutes to help you with this, such as Teecino herbal ‘coffee’, mushroom coffees, and teas.
A few other supplements and herbs to consider are:
- Protein – Protein (specifically, tryptophan) is needed to make melatonin and helps keep blood sugar regulated.
- Ashwagandha, tulsi, reishi mushrooms – Adaptogens that help your body respond to stress better.
- Valerian, lemon balm, chamomile – Nervine herbs that will help calm your body. You can find them as individual teas, or in a combination such as Nighty Night Tea by Traditional Medicinals.
- GABA – A brain relaxant that counteracts the effects of chronic stress. Low levels can lead to anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Now you’ll have a good idea of what could be causing your Hashimoto’s insomnia and how to start getting better sleep.
Let us know in the comments what you will try or what has worked for you!