Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation refers to being deprived of the recommended hours of sleep for healthy adults. Sleep deprivation can dramatically worsen fatigue in people who are hypothyroid. In people who are thyrotoxic, sleep deprivation can contribute to exhaustion, but sleep is difficult anyway because the body is working too hard at night, which interferes with a good night's sleep.

In the absence of hypothyroidism or thyrotoxicosis, people who have multiple demands and/or jobs that require long hours are often sleep deprived, which can have serious health repercussions. In fact, some research suggests that chronic fatigue as well as fibromyalgia may be directly linked to chronic sleep deprivation. One Canadian study deliberately deprived a group of medical students of non-REM sleep over a period of several nights. Within the next few days, each of the study participants developed symptoms of CFS and/or fibromyalgia.

There are two phases of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement. REM sleep is when researchers believe we dream, an important component in mental health. Non-REM sleep is when we are in our deepest sleep, which is when, researchers believe, various hormones are reset and energy stores are replenished.

Sleep is therefore an active state that affects our physical and mental well-being. Insufficient restful sleep can result in mental and physical health problems.

There is a misconception that as we get older, we need less sleep. This is not so; we need just as much sleep as always, but we often get less sleep. What happens is that our ability to achieve quality sleep for long periods of time diminishes as we age. The older we get, the more fragile our sleep becomes, which can be more easily disturbed by light, noise, and pain (from arthritis, and so on). It's common for various medical conditions to interfere with sleep, and in the case of thyroid disease, this is usually the result of restlessness, anxiety, and racing heart from thyrotoxicosis. Whether you're euthyroid, hypothyroid, or thyrotoxic, for a better sleep, try the following:

• Regular bedtime hours. Go to bed at the same time every night.

• Regular wakeup hour. Try to wake up around the same time every morning.

• Daily sun exposure. Exposure to natural outdoor light during the day helps with sleep.

• A cool, dark, and quiet room at bedtime. Lower the temperature at night or open a window. Use earplugs if necessary and pull down shades or draw curtains.

If you're getting regular sleep and are euthyroid but find you're dozing off during the day or still feel tired, this could be a sign of a sleep disorder, which is present in roughly forty million North Americans. That said, there are two times during a twenty-four-hour period when we are most inclined to feel sleepy regardless of how much sleep we've had. The first period is between about midnight and 7 a.m., when most of us do sleep. But the second period is after lunch, which in many cultures is siesta time or naptime, between 1 and 3 p.m. If you're getting less sleep at night, taking a nap between 1 p.m and 3 p.m can help to combat fatigue in people with more flexible hours, or in people who work night shifts.

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