One of the most debilitating symptoms when discussing Graves’ Disease is the inability for the diagnosed to obtain proper sleep, both in duration, quality and quantity. The reason behind this symptom particularly is that the overall body metabolism is already increased dramatically due to the excess of thyroid hormone in the body. This leads to a subjective feeling of increased energy and physical drive. The person suffering from Graves’ disease often feels that he can accomplish many things, regularly starts many projects at once and works until completely exhausted. In normal conditions this should lead to deep and rejuvenating sleep and the individual may expect to wake up refreshed and rested. That’s not the case with people suffering from Graves’ Disease because they can’t just “turn off” the switch so easily, have problems initiating sleep, maintaining sleep or going through all 5 stages of the sleeping cycle.
Clinical picture of sleep problems associated with Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism
Some of the leading complaints are nonrestorative sleep, waking up a few times at night and problems falling back to sleep. Some people regularly sleep less that 2-3 hours per night and wake up even more tired. The sleep disturbance and the accompanying daytime exhaustion cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of life. As a result of this repeated sleep disturbance patterns people may feel irritable, fatigue and exhausted during daytime, often unable to focus on work, driving or social activities. They have diminished motivation to accomplish different tasks, reduced performance at work or school, may experience daytime sleepiness. The diagnosed individuals may also have problems with daytime attention, concentration, or memory. Graves’ disease patients find themselves in a vicious circle- unable to get enough sleep, exhausted and overwhelmed. However, there are a few methods and sleeping aids that can break that circle.
General recommendations for dealing with Graves’ Disease insomnia
First, patients need to continue with the treatment medication, prescribed by their physicians regarding Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism. Second, it is recommended to sustain a stable sleep-wake cycle, meaning going to bed at one and the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, regardless if it is a weekend or not. It is advisable to avoid alcohol before going to bed, because alcohol is often associated with impaired sleeping schedule. Properly ventilated rooms and premises are also important for providing deep and restorative sleep. Watching television and working on computers one hour before bed may also interfere with the sleep quality and quantity.
There are some sleeping aids over the counter and natural remedies which can help the initiation and maintenance of good sleep. The following aids can be found on any health food store:
1. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is connected with and controls the sleep cycles. The production of this hormone usually increases in the evenings and decreases at mornings, but this process may be affected by abnormal circumstances: night shifts, jet lag, seasonal affective disorder etc. Take as prescribed on the label.
2. Chamomile tea- has calming effect on the nervous system and has no contraindications.
3. Lemon balm tea- it has relaxing effect and is used to treat anxiety and stress. It also known to reduce the overproduction of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
4. Lavender- use as aromatherapy oil or mist.
5. Valerian Roots- this is another powerful herb to promote good night sleep. Avoid taking during the day because it has strong sedative properties and may act as a tranquilizer.
6. Warm milk with a table spoon of honey. Take at least 30 minutes before bed.
7. Magnesium- it calms the nerves and relaxes the muscles, thus helping the organism to prepare for sleep. The magnesium depletion is connected to stress; accordingly, taken as supplement it has positive effect on sleep.
Additional sleeping techniques and recommendations for Graves’ Disease associated sleeping problems
1. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques are also often recommended by clinicians to promote good sleep.
2. Use bubble baths with soft music and candles to relax before going to sleep.
3. Massage therapy also helps the body to relax on a physical and mental level.
4. Meditation- this free and easy method is found by clinicians to calm down “running minds and thoughts”, to help awareness, relaxation and concentration.
5. Walking and physical exercise- both can help establishing a health sleep pattern, so practice regularly.