When you mention thyroid disease to someone there are some facts that the person might already know from things they’ve heard about having an underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism) thyroid. However, there are some lesser-known facts that drive us crazy. Today we are sharing some of these facts with you.
Everyone knows that hypothyroidism can cause sleep cycle problems. How many nights do you lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, waiting for your body to decide that it was, indeed, going to let you go to sleep? You look at the clock and it’s almost midnight….and that’s early for you. You look again, and it’s 3 am. Yes, you dozed off for a bit, but here you are again, awake and annoyed. That’s a typical night for you. That’s a typical night for most people, but it’s even more common when your thyroid levels aren’t well-controlled, or during those lovely nights when your levels have changed and you haven’t gone to the doctor. We all understand those. Those aren’t the sleep problems I’m talking about here. That’s frustrating, but can be dealt with.
No….the sleep problems I’m talking about is called a hypnic (or myoclonic) jerk. You managed to get to bed at a decent hour, and you’re lying there, nice and heavy, finally embracing the black oblivion of sleep relatively easily. It’s been such a long day, and you’re exhausted. Ahhhh…. Then suddenly, WHAM!!! You better hope there’s no one lying in bed beside you or you’ve just punched them in the face. Or worse, maybe you suddenly find yourself on the floor. Maybe you got lucky and just find yourself sitting bolt-upright, a little confused and very disoriented… and THEN fall out of bed. I’ve actually woken up facing completely the wrong direction and nearly fallen out of bed just trying to lay back down. Sound familiar?
This has happened to me SO many times, but there’s good news, and there IS relief in sight! Here’s what you can do!
- DO try to go to bed at the same time each night.
- DO minimize stress in the evenings. Unwind with a cup of tea or a hot bath.
- DO develop a routine starting 30 minutes before bedtime. Put your pajamas on, read a book, brush your teeth. Every night.
- DO get a weighted blanket, or heavy blanket. These are readily available at many department stores or online.
- DON’T watch television, use your tablet, etc., for 30 minutes prior to bedtime. This is the biggest mistake you can make. Television and screens stimulates the brain so your sleep cycle gets disturbed. If you MUST do something electronic, get an e-book reader. These are designed with blue-light filters and non-flickering lights. (Ironically, I’m writing this at 10:30 p.m., because I can’t sleep…)
- DON’T drink caffeine in the evenings. I quit drinking caffeine altogether!
*cough* *cough* *choke* *sputter* *cough* *cough*
“Honey, are you okay?” Once I get done mopping up the food or water that I have subsequently sprayed across my placemat (or worse, my kid’s…), I tell him I’m fine.
This used to be a typical question during meals, and when my thyroid levels are off, it’s still a regular occurrence. I love chicken noodle soup, baked potato soup, chili, stews…. All of these are my favorite winter foods, but thyroid disease has forced me to change the way I eat. See, the thyroid drives your entire body… everything. It drives sleep cycles, hair growth, weight control… and reflexes, such as closing your trachea while food enters your esophagus. So those mixed-texture foods you love can occasionally become your worst enemy. I remember one meal that I choked on FOUR times. It involved my favorite broccoli and cheese soup, which, coincidentally, I don’t eat anymore.
Eating out now calls for careful consideration. There may be lots of food that I love, but not everything loves me at the dinner table. It’s more than just watching my caloric intake, thanks to the battle of the hypothyroid bulge.… Eating out can now be considered an adventure into finding out what new food is going to make me choke today! YIPPEE!
Roller coasters are great, and I love car trips with my family, but they make my family insane. Why? Because I always have to drive. I love driving, and traffic doesn’t bother me. I really don’t mind. But I have to
Dry, itchy, flaky…. and spotted! No, I’m not talking about your dalmation. I can’t tell you how many times my best friend has looked at me and said, “You have something on your… oh, never mind. It’s just your skin.” After dinner, my husband will tell me to wipe my face because I have a stain by my mouth. No, that’s just one of the fun parts of my thyroid. I have one dark spot on either side of mouth, just below the corners. It’s not a stain, and I didn’t forget to wipe my mouth. If I was a guy, I could hide it easily with a goatee… but alas, I am not. Makeup might hide it for a while, but thanks to my unpredictable skin (another fun symptom), it also breaks me out. Ugh.
You Are NOT Alone!
The news isn’t all bad, even though it’s been all doom and gloom until now. Admit it… a grown woman rolling out of bed (and her teenager asking if anyone else felt the mid-night earthquake) is relatively funny, as long as it’s not you. The fact is until I met someone else who was open and honest about their hypothyroidism, I honestly thought that my problems with motion sickness, eating, and sleep was just normal changes in my body due to ageing.
Looking back, I can mark the exact time when my thyroid went wrong. It started when I was in high school, and somehow got missed during my first pregnancy. I thought that the fact that motion simulators suddenly made me queasy was just the fact that I wasn’t a teenager anymore. It wasn’t until I finally met someone who struggled with the same issues, who also had hypothyroidism, that I put two and two together. Now that I know these are all due to my thyroid, it gives me some idea of when my thyroid levels are all out of whack so that I can go see my doctor for a blood test. I hate getting stuck with needles, but I hate falling out of bed at 41 years old even more.
About The Author
Bethany Orr is a cellist, avid car enthusiast, and mom of two, currently residing in Fall Branch, Tennessee. She is a full-time parent who was diagnosed with autoimmune hypothyroidism in April, 2004. She also writes a blog geared to inspiring adult beginner musicians.