18 Things Thyroid Patients Can Do To Beat Insomnia

18 Things Thyroid Patients Can Do To Beat Insomnia

It is incredible really the number of followers on my Hypothyroid Mom Facebook page that ask about insomnia. I receive comments at all hours of the day and night from hypothyroid people struggling to sleep at night. This is a very real issue.

Written by Cammi Balleck, CTN, ANCB Board Certified Naturopath

Did you know that sleep is an essential part of optimal health?

No, you don’t need to just take a sleeping pill, you need to give your body the nutrition it needs to function like it was created to. If we are healthy we have energy all day and sleep all night. Drugging yourself every night has its risks, research shows that sleeping pills kill 500,000 Americans annually. Sleeping pills just knock you out without solving the problem. They treat symptoms but not the cause.

It’s a fact. If you’re not sleeping well, it’s impossible to be healthy!

Insomnia is having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or the inability to get quality sleep throughout the night. Persistent insomnia is a huge clue that something is desperately wrong with one’s balance in life. Left untreated, insomnia can destroy one’s health. The sad thing though if you’re not sleeping you’re not healing and you become off balance as you don’t sleep.

The thyroid hormones work in a feedback loop with your brain — particularly your pituitary, hypothalamus and adrenals — in regulating the release of thyroid hormone. Your pituitary makes TRH (thyroid releasing hormone), and your hypothalamus makes TSH. If everything is working properly, you will make what you need and you’ll have the proper amounts of T3 and T4. Those two thyroid hormones — T3 and T4 — are what control the metabolism of every cell in your body. But their delicate balance can be disrupted by nutritional imbalances, toxins, allergens, infections, and stress. If your hormones are off balance your whole system suffers.

Understanding the cause of insomnia

Insomnia is caused by nutritional deficiencies. The deficiencies are caused by poor quality foods, poor digestion, and poor elimination. In addition depletion is caused by man-made artificial “foods”. You need minerals and amino-acids to sleep well. It is true stress keeps us awake but the real deep cause is not the stress, but the lowered resistance to stresses and increased nervous irritability because of deficient nutrition.

Nutritional deficiencies cause a biochemical imbalance and can cause an “over-firing” in the brain. It is something that occurs when you put your head down, trying to go to sleep or trying to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, and suddenly your mind starts to produce all of these unwanted, uncontrollable thoughts. It’s as if the mind has a mind of its own.

The most common cause of insomnia is when our stress hormone cortisol is out of balance meaning it is too high at night. This will cause you to stay awake. Cortisol is the hormone your body produces in response to stress, real or imagined, which is why it’s commonly referred to as “the stress hormone”. Cortisol is suppose to be high in the morning when you wake and slowly lower during the day. However if you are stressed, cortisol can be high at night and keep your energy high and you awake.

Also other neurotransmitters such as GABA and melatonin can be imbalanced causing you to stay awake. The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system, just like the thryroid. If you have a low thyroid it’s most likely you have low adrenals. They work together. Adrenal exhaustion can come when we are coping with chronic long term stress. Your adrenal glands are overworked, the result is you feel exhausted, often depressed, insomnia, and your muscle tone decreases while body fat increases. Your thyroid function is closely coupled to your adrenal function, which is intimately affected by how you handle stress. How you handle stress is affected by if your body has enough nutrition to handle it or not.

Most of us, okay, all of us are under stress, which results in increased adrenalin and cortisol levels and elevated cortisol has a negative impact on thyroid function. Thyroid hormone levels drop during stress, while you actually need more thyroid hormones during stressful times.

When stress becomes chronic, the flood of stress chemicals (adrenalin and cortisol) produced by your adrenal glands interferes with the thyroid. A prolonged stress response can lead to adrenal exhaustion which is often found alongside thyroid disease.

18 things thyroid patients can do now to sleep

Traditional naturopaths look at the underlying causes of symptoms and attempt to correct nutritional deficiencies before disease sets in. I focus on determining the root causes by looking at your entire body and environment. Of course optimal thyroid treatment is key for thyroid patients struggling with insomnia. However there are additional things to consider and I’ve included links to preferred brands below.

Supplement needs vary on an individual basis so consult with your doctor to be sure the suggested supplements are right for you. Some of the supplements are not recommended during pregnancy or lactation. Your physiology and life history are unique. Your path to health will be unique too.

  1. Exercise in the morning and do a relaxing yoga or meditation at night.
  2. Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed to produce melatonin and serotonin.
  3. Eat cherries in the evening. Cherries boost the body’s own supply of melatonin.
  4. Eat nuts, which are rich in selenium.
  5. Get plenty of sunlight to optimize your vitamin D levels or take a whole food D supplement. Speak to your doctor about testing your vitamin D level to determine the ideal dosage for your body.
  6. Eat foods rich in vitamin A such as sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and greens. Note – dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, and collards are ok but they have goitrogenic properties especially when eaten raw so take care not to eat them in large amounts. Cooking and steaming reduces the goitrogenic effect.
  7. Use Organic Coconut Oil in your cooking, smoothies, and on your skin.
  8. A small cup of chamomile tea after dinner may help you begin the relaxing process.
  9. Passionflower is native to tropical and sub-tropical sections of the Americas and have a long history to promote emotional balance through relaxation of the nervous system which acts as a natural stress relief and natural sleep aid. Passionflower is also used to relieve anxiety.
  10. Lemon Balm Powder is considered a “calming” herb. It also helps as a natural stress relief and natural sleep aid. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep (natural sleep aid), improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating as well as colic). However use caution with Lemon Balm if you have autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
  11. Kava Kava has been shown in several studies to decrease feelings of mild anxiety and symptoms of insomnia. There are anecdotal reports of kava’s ability to do so without alterations in consciousness. People who consume alcohol should avoid kava as well.
  12. A larger number of studies have examined whether the herb Valerian is effective for treating insomnia. In many of these, valerian decreased the time it took for participants to fall asleep and, in some studies, it lengthened total sleep time and/or improved sleep quality. The generally recommended dose is 450-600 mg taken about 2 hours before bedtime.
  13. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. It is associated with regulating circadian rhythms (your 24-hour wake-sleep cycle). Some studies have found that melatonin improved sleep in patients with major depression as well as for those with schizophrenia. It is advisable to consult a physician with expertise in treating sleep disorders when considering using this or other herbal or supplements for insomnia.
  14. Speak to your doctor about a mineral supplement with iodine in it. The topic of iodine for thyroid health is a controversial topic especially in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Speak to your doctor about testing for iodine deficiency. I recommend Min-Tran from Standard Process. Minerals work as a mild tranquilizer and a mild natural calmative to establish balanced function of the nervous system and the endocrine system. Mintran is great to support thyroid function as well and it’s a whole food supplement so it’s safe to take. Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormone. If you aren’t getting enough iodine in your diet (and most Americans don’t), no matter how healthy your thyroid gland is, it won’t have the raw materials to make enough thyroid hormones. Also, eat plenty of sea vegetables such as seaweed, which are rich in minerals and iodine (hijiki, wakame, arame, dulse, nori, and kombu).
  15. Take a complete omega 3 supplement with double the EPA than DHA.
  16. Try taking your thyroid medication right before going to sleep at night, rather than taking it first thing in the morning. This helps many thyroid patients with insomnia, but it can also make insomnia worse for other patients. Every person’s body is unique but this is worth considering. Be sure to speak to your doctor whenever you make changes to how you take your medication.
  17.  I like to have my patients take extra calcium and magnesium at night before bed to help with insomnia (this also helps with balancing stress hormones). Natural Calm by Natural Vitality is a popular anti-stress drink that balances your calcium intake and restores healthy magnesium levels. Taking supplements such as calcium and magnesium at the same time as your thyroid medication may decrease the effectiveness of the thyroid medication. Separate the timing of when you take your thyroid medication and supplements by 4-6 hours.
  18. Insomnia is a common sign of adrenal fatigue. Our adrenals and thyroid are so intricately connected. One way to treat adrenal fatigue is through the use of adaptogen herbs, such as Ashwagandha. They are great healing herbs for the adrenals and thyroid and really good in times of stress.

An insomnia problem is no different from any other chronic illness – you must address the underlying issues if you hope to correct the problem.

About Cammi Balleck, CTN, ANCB Board Certified Naturopath

Cammi Balleck is an ANCB Board Certified Traditional Naturopath. She has been called the leading Happy Hormone Doctor. She has over 11 years experience specializing in biochemical balance and she is author of the book Happy the NEW Sexy. Cammi is the women’s health expert for Women’s Day, O, Prevention, Shape, and First Magazines as well as a featured expert for TBN, and FOX NEWS NATIONALLY. In addition she has made guest appearances on CW stations in Denver.

READ NEXT: 10 ways to overcome fatigue with a low thyroid

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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.


  1. Does anyone have experience having a hypothyroid for many years – and then become hyperthyroid?

    Insomnia, BP issues, Etc., …

    I will be 73 in April.

    • I did. And they missed that it had switched from hypo to hyper and that the hyperthyroidism was causing my heart to work at five times the usual speed. Result – heart failure at 48 years and a damaged heart. 🙁 So make sure they keep monitoring your heart beat and if you get any palpatations at night, swollen feet or ankles, short of breath, tell your doctor/s.
      Meditation is great for blood pressure and the heart. Especially TM (Transcendental Meditation). It lowers blood pressure and supports the heart. It has been scientifically proven.
      I take high doses of Vitamin D with K in it to support absorption. I avoid grains (I basically eat a coeliac diet) and eat as fresh food as possible. I found the above article very interesting as my main challenge now is insomnia. I am trying out Melatonin which has helped a lot but as I have Hashimoto as well as Hyperthyroidism, I am cautious to take too much.
      Best of luck!

    • This is called autoimmune disease Hashimoto:(

  2. Apparently Oxalate levels in many healthy foods like nuts, spinach, sweet potatoes, etc. – play a significant role in our overall health.

    Can anyone suggest sleep remedy foods or supplements for a person who has had hypothyroid problems for many, many years that recently switched to hyperthyroidism?

  3. Desiree Hack says

    I have had a thyroid problem for many years. I take Levothyroxine 75mg , lately I find once I have taken them I become quite tearful or get that anxious feeling on my tummy. Not sure why now. Does anyone have any suggestions for me.

    • Paige perkins says

      I used to take levothyroxine, then it disappeared and came back with a different formulation which did not work for me. I took the opportunity to switch to natural thryroid, which my nutritionist had been urging me to do for some time. I’d been afraid to do this— the thyroid is extremely sensitive to change, even tiny ones. I used the book Stop the Thyroid Madness and started on NP Thyroid by Acella. My md kindly helped me gradually get on the right dosage. Ever since, my thyroid has been completely stable and non-problematic. I highly recommend finding someone who will help you switch to natural thyroid (armpit is one kind, my success has been with NP thyroid by Acella. If your med makes you feel bad, find another! I had to do this for some time but am very happy I did. Good luck!

  4. Tammy ODell says

    I have no thyroid I have insomnia. I came out of the hospital taking 72 calcium pills along with magnesium and a vit d pill with everything else the useless dr threw at me because he disnt know what he was doing.. anyway I have tried everything and I mean everything from drinks to tea to food to cherries. Sleeping meds from the dr. Still nothing. I sleep maybe 2-3 hours a night. Anything anyone could help me with would be appreciated very much. To top it off I have spinal fluid migraines. I sleep in a very dark room with 2 fans and in the winter the window is open so I can be cooler to try to sleep. So help please.

    • My mother is going through the same exact issue. Her primary care doctor just keeps feeding her sleeping pills and medication for anxiety. But her anxiousness is coming from lack of sleep. Praying for you. Please let me know if anything changes for you and I will do the same. We’re pretty stuck right now.

  5. I have tried the cherry juice and does not work for me. I cannot ingest anything with sugar before bedtime. I am going to try taking the thyroid med before bed instead of the morning and see what happens.

  6. Constance P. says

    As helpful as ashwagandha can be for some, it can be horrible for others. Ashwagandha is part of the nightshade family. If you are doing an autoimmune protocol diet or have fibromyalgia, you should avoid all nightshade plants. Peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and paprika are some of the others you should not eat. Nightshades are guaranteed to cause a huge fibro flare for me. Many supplements that have been developed for thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue contain ashwagandha. Always look at the ingredients. If you have a reaction and your symptoms worsen after taking a supplement, it may be due to the nightshades contained in it.

    • Thanks so much for your advice. Very helpful. I have Hashimoto’s, fibromyalgia and terrible insomnia. All of my supplements for sleep have Ashwagandha.
      Thanks again!

    • Sooooo good to know I was all in until I read your post – never heard about nightshade!!! Than You!!!

  7. spacenani says

    I was told it is the pituitary gland, not the hypothalamus that produces TSH.

  8. I am so glad I read this article. I have hypothyroidism and just started on a low dose of Armour today. One of my concerns is that sometimes I have trouble falling asleep and what do I do now that I’m on this medicine, but I see you suggest cherries at night so I imagine the tart cherry concentrate I get at the Vitamin Store will be fine to drink before bed. At least hope I am right. Thank you.

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