You look at the clock. It’s 4am.
The last time you looked, it was 3am. Before that, 2am.
You´ve been tossing and turning all night.
You know you desperately need your sleep. But your thoughts won’t stop racing. And your heart is pounding again.
In just a few more hours, you need to be up and at ‘em.
Go back to sleep already!
“The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sleep deprivation or lack of sleep is an infuriating and common Graves’ disease symptom. What’s more, it likely aggravates your symptoms.
It’s like a chicken and egg situation. Take for example irritability. From personal experience, I know that sleepless nights create cranky people. Morning mood, anyone? Yet, I still haven’t figured out whether my all-time high irritability level (at the time I had active Graves’ disease) was caused by my disease or my chronic lack of decent sleep (because of Graves’ disease). Maybe it was both?
No matter what came first, you need to get some good sleep.
Fortunately, you can do a lot today to improve your quantity and quality of sleep.
Let’s dive in.
Set a bedtime around 10pm
The period between 10pm and 2am is when your sleep is commonly deepest, most regenerative and most refreshing. Also, during this time, your liver, gallbladder and brain are actively detoxifying your system.
You can make the most of these regenerative activities by going to bed around or before 10pm. Your ideal bedtime may be even earlier. The first time at night you feel you’re getting tired, that’s your body’s way of saying “it’s bed time”. If you go to bed at that time, you’ll likely see it’s easier to fall and stay asleep.
Create a sound bedtime routine
Do you have kids?
If so, you’re likely familiar with the benefits of a sound bedtime routine. What goes for our kids, goes for us too.
Taking time to wind down from the day is a helpful clue for your body that it’s time to go to sleep. Checking your email, going over some work documents, or arguing with your spouse minutes before jumping into bed aren’t the smartest things to do if you’d like to improve your sleep.
Your body needs time to unplug. Take 30 minutes to an hour for some relaxing activities. These can include taking a warm bath or shower, reading, listening to relaxing music or doing deep breathing exercises. This brings your body in the mood to go to sleep.
By repeating the same kinds of things every night, your body starts to recognize it’s time to go to sleep soon.
A note on melatonin
Experiencing difficulty getting adequate sleep may be related to low melatonin.
Melatonin is also known as the sleep hormone. It follows a daily rhythm or circadian rhythm. It’s supposed to be lowest in the morning and highest at night. It will make you go to sleep.
As we age, melatonin production reduces. And unfortunately, our lifestyles may further suppress melatonin. Spending most of our days inside, watching television, checking facebook or emails late at night, using NSAIDs like ibuprofen, and more, counteract melatonin production. Even coffee, steroid drugs, and alcohol may have a suppressing effect.
Following 3 ways improve sleep naturally by increasing melatonin production.
Spending time outside during the day is helpful for healthy melatonin production. This is especially the case if you go outdoors first thing in the morning. Or when the light is brightest.
If you can’t make that work, consider taking a walk outside around lunch time. Or, if weather permits, simply have your lunch outdoors.
Aim for at least 30 minutes outdoors every day. Rain or shine.
Minimize blue light at night
Light from lightbulbs, computers, smart phones, TV screens and so on contains a blue wavelength. This blue wavelength or blue light suppresses melatonin production.
During the day, this is not a problem. However, at night when we should start to wind down, this blue light can interfere with your sleep hormone and affect your sleep.
Consider limiting screen time at night and reducing the amount of light in general. Blue light blocking glasses also work well. On amazon you can find a wide range of them. I started with a goofy highly affordable one, which I only wore when I was home by myself. I recently upgraded to a fancier pair that I even wear around my husband.
For your computer screen, I recommend downloading the free f.lux app: https://justgetflux.com/. This adjusts your screen’s color temperature according to the time of day. It’s also easier on the eyes.
Sleep in a pitch-dark room or use a sleep mask
Do you find that you experience deeper sleep in a really dark environment? That’s because the darker it gets, the more melatonin is produced by your pineal gland.
Artificial light interferes with this process. So, to optimally support melatonin production, think about getting black out curtains and removing alarm clocks, computers and chargers from your bedroom. Or simply use a sleep mask.
Take supplements that promote sleep
Two supplements that support sleep are magnesium and vitamin B6.
Magnesium is a mineral that helps to promote relaxation and restful sleep. Not all magnesium supplements are created equal. Chelated forms such as glycinate, citrate or malate are best absorbed. If you are leaning towards having loose stools or diarrhea, go with magnesium glycinate.
Do you usually recall your dreams? If the answer is no, you’re likely deficient in vitamin B6. This vitamin is also known as the “dream vitamin”. Taking supplemental B6 can help you get more deep sleep and enhanced dreaming, or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Think dreams in vivid technicolor.
You can take magnesium and B6 together before bedtime as a sleep serum. B6 is the only B vitamin that can be taken at night. All other B vitamins should be taken before 2pm given their energizing effects.
As a general note. What works well for some, may not work so well for you. So always introduce one new supplement at a time and notice its effect on you. If it doesn’t work well, stop it. If you don’t notice much, you can increase with small increments to the level that feels best for you. Try low and go slow.
Eat a small protein snack before bedtime
Blood sugar problems are common for many people including those with hyperthyroidism. Unstable blood sugar levels may be a reason for waking up in the middle of the night.
You can keep your blood sugar levels more balanced throughout the night by eating a small protein snack before bedtime. Think of a small piece of meat, a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds or pumpkin seed butter (pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin), or a tablespoon of almond butter.
The truth about your sleep
These are 7 ways that can help you start to improve both your quantity and quality of sleep. Moreover, the first 5 will help you build a strong foundation for optimal sleep.
Having said that, realize that despite your best efforts, sleep may remain challenging for you.
To overcome your sleep issues once and for all, you may need to dig deeper to find the underlying causes for your sleep deprivation (and Graves’ disease). And work on those.
Areas to think about are diet and stress.
I will cover these topics soon in several blog posts.