A common symptom that hypothyroid patients have is waking up not feeling refreshed, and, commonly, actually waking up feeling MORE tired than when they went to bed the night before.
I experienced this and it baffled me. How does that make sense?! I got 10 hours sleep and still wake up feeling MORE tired than when I went to bed?
Well, it has a great deal to do with your adrenal function.
The adrenal glands, two little glands that sit on top of each kidney, produce hormones and cortisol for many bodily functions. Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions, including regulation of blood sugar, metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates and immune responses. With adrenal fatigue, your adrenal glands produce too much or not enough cortisol.
Adrenal fatigue is common in those with hypothyroidism, with it being reported that about many of those with hypothyroidism will have some form of adrenal fatigue.
Cortisol should be at its highest when you wake, slowly falling as the day goes on. The low levels at night time ensure you’re ready to sleep, and the low levels throughout the night ensure you get a good nights sleep, before it rises again around the time you wake.
The adrenals can become dysfunctional (producing too much or too little cortisol) after first responding to chronic emotional, mental or biological stress of any kind by providing you with extra cortisol. But the body can only keep up with high cortisol for so long. So after this, the cortisol starts to fall, leading to low cortisol. In between this, you could have combined highs and lows. So you could have high, low or combined highs and lows in cortisol, causing adrenal fatigue. More info here and here.
When people wake up still feeling tired, or even more tired than when they went bed, they should check their adrenals, as it can be caused by cortisol levels being too high or too low.
I had mine tested and found I had high cortisol all day, causing my on-going fatigue, poor ability to fall sleep in the evenings, and then stay asleep; waking multiple times, sleep talking, tossing and turning and even sometimes sleep walking. The only accurate way to test them is by completing a 24 hour four point saliva test, to see how your levels rise and drop in a day, so you can compare them to the above (how they should be). Urine and blood are not accurate ways to test it.
Too low cortisol can also disrupt sleep and make you feel like you haven’t slept at all, when it comes to getting up the next day. The symptoms of low and high cortisol can be very similar!
I have been blogging about correcting my adrenal fatigue, and I am yet to test my cortisol again to see if it has been corrected or at least closer to where it should be, but I do feel a lot better. I can’t wait to test it and actually see the results.
As I’ve been feeling better, I’ve been feeling less tired and sleeping better, I’ve started witnessing the miracle of waking up feeling refreshed, again! Yes, you heard me. I wake up not going ‘Urrrggghhhh, why do I feel more tired than when I came bed at 9pm last night?!’ anymore.
I honestly made peace with the fact that I would never wake up feeling refreshed or at least not horrendously tired, ever again, and that for the rest of my life, getting out of bed would be the worst part of every day.
Sure, most healthy people feel that, too. Hypothyroid or not, who likes leaving their bed for school, uni, work etc.? But when you’re physically so fatigued after a ‘decent’ nights sleep, that getting out of bed feels like you’re dragging a mountain by the ankle, it is just beyond your imagination, unless you’ve firsthand experienced it.
Dysfunctional adrenals can result in high amounts of T3 from your thyroid medication to build in the blood, making your Free T3 results look high, but with continuing hypo symptoms, or causing hyper-like symptoms.
Order a 24 hour saliva test, testing your cortisol levels at 4 key points of the day, to find out if you have adrenal fatigue.
It is never wise to guess whether you have low or high cortisol, symptoms for both are similar. You shouldn’t really make any changes to your personal health regime before consulting a doctor and/or pharmacist, first. You could cause more harm than good if it isn’t done responsibly.
I ordered my adrenal stress test through Genova, using Thyroid UK’s code and instructions.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given, but more reading and references can also be found at:
Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018. Currently studying for relevant qualifications and certificates in Life Coaching, Diet and Nutrition, Reflexology and more, she has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community.