Insomnia in Graves’ Disease/Hyperthyroidism


Can’t sleep due to hyperthyroidism? Here are your cures:

And here is also the first secret: if you want to improve your health and help your Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism, you have to get enough sleep, no matter how! These are some remedies that you can apply right away, but let’s start with the basics first:


Insomnia (or inability to sleep) due to Graves’ disease and/or hyperthyroidism is a common symptom for people suffering from the the above disorders. Secondary insomnia (which is due to a medical condition) is characterized by one or a few of the following:

– difficulty falling asleep

– waking up at night and inability to go back to sleep

– waking up too early in the morning

– feeling tired in the morning, i.e. poor sleep quality

One of the reasons for this insomnia is of course are the high cortisol levels, and as you can guess they’re caused by stress- chronic or acute. Stress and anxiety could be number one reason for your inability to sleep and recharge at night.

I still remember vividly how I felt 11 years ago, when I was sick with Graves’ disease.  I could not sleep more than two or three hours per night, then I would wake up and won’t be able to fall asleep no matter what.  Occasionally, my palpitations will hit at night, which would make the situation even worse. The mornings were even worse: I felt very tired, irritable, sleepy and exhausted (no wonder why!). I am not even mentioning the loss of concentration, problems with memory and the feeling that  I am not completely myself.  Regardless I was so tired, I felt restless, nervous and like somebody was “pushing” me to move constantly and do more things around the house and in the yard. I just couldn’t stop. It was a vicious circle and the experience was horrible, I have to admit. I still don’t understand how I was able to work and be “normal” (if anything at all was normal back then)…

It is scientifically proven that sleep deprivation also can lead to confusion, depression, hallucinations, heart problem, hand tremors, elevated stress hormone levels, headaches, and in certain cases even to psychosis. In a study in 1999 it was also found that sleep deprivation increases the activity on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (which controls reactions to stress and regulates body functions such as digestion, the immune system, mood, sex, or energy usage) while suppressing growth hormones. Needless to say, in people with hyperthyroidism the activity of this HPA axis is already too active!

In conclusion, sleep deprivation is very serious and has numerous health consequences, especially for people suffering from Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism! 

My personal opinion is that you have to get at least 8 hours of sleep, or rest about 11 hours (rest not sleep!). I know that it sounds too much for many of you, but if you’re able to accomplish that I promise it will change the whole picture and how you feel tremendously! In fact, this is where you start your healing journey!

Below are some methods that I’ve used to achieve these 8 hours of sleep and most of them worked for me. Once I started to get enough sleep, I was able to think clearly and decide what steps to take in order to improve my health condition, but this definitely was my starting point. 

1. Herbs that help insomnia: Lavender, Valerian Roots and Lemon Balm (and some others as well). All of them have mild sedative effect and I suggest you try them one by one as a tea (or diffuser for Lavender)  right before going to bed,  but don’t mix them all together. This is a better way to check which herb has an effect on you (or not). As a general rule, try to avoid tea bags, as the herbs don’t have long shelf life and might not be effective (use bulk herbs instead). If in any doubt, consult naturopath.  

2. Melatonin: this is a hormone, produced by your pineal gland and it usually increases in the evenings. It’s also come as over the counter medication that usually helps people who have problems with melatonin levels. It did not work for me, but some people said it helped them.

3. Avoid aspartame, caffeine, too much alcohol (a glass of red wine may be actually helpful). Late dinners, over-stimulation before going to bed or watching TV are not recommended either. (I stopped watching TV around that time and found that very helpful for my sleep). Take out of your bedroom cell phones, TV’s, tablets or any other equipment that may interfere with your sleep. Start preparing yourself for bed time way ahead, because routine activities help the sleeping patterns.  

4. Psychologically speaking, anxiety is a big problem that may cause severe insomnia. Anxiety is worrying about different things (within or out of your control), re-playing scenes from your everyday life: things you should’ve said, but you didn’t or things you should’ve handled differently; worrying about the future or about significant or insignificant things. Anxiety has too many faces and variations to be mentioned here. But please, get this anxiety under control!

How do you fight anxiety?

Some of the best methods: meditate, relax, let go, take better care of yourself, force yourself to do nothing for at least 1 hour daily. Find space and time to re-charge yourself, because you can’t pour water from an empty bucket, can you? Get help from a mental health professional if you can’t manage it yourself. It’s worth the efforts. Behavioral therapies may include progressive muscle relaxation, stimulus control, ways to increase sleep efficiency and reworking the misconceptions about sleep.

5. Last, but not least. Even though I disapprove medication in general, I should say: if nothing else helps, ask your doctor to prescribe you sleeping medication. Pharmacology is necessary in some conditions and this may be one of them. It’s more important to get sleep now than anything else. Consider that step as a temporary solution that can assist your healing process and I believe it will.

Happy sleeping!