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A lot of people living with thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s struggle with serious fatigue. However, when they mention this to other people, it is often met with “Oh yeah, I sometimes feel tired too.”
This simple response can be frustrating to hear. Thyroid fatigue (and the fatigue that often comes with other chronic health conditions too) is overwhelming, debilitating and unlike anything else. It’s not the same as ‘regular tired’. Thyroid fatigue is often described as an overall exhaustion of every inch of the body; as if you’re dragging a dead weight along.
It’s not ‘I had a late night and am a bit groggy today’ tired, it feels as if you could fall asleep with every blink you take.
When your eyelids are so heavy that it’s seriously dangerous to drive.
When getting up the stairs is such a difficult task, that you have to plan about half an hour before you want to go upstairs, in order to physically prepare yourself for it.
A lot of thyroid patients wake up in the morning and no matter how good a night’s sleep they get, never feel refreshed. They often wake up feeling more tired.
It’s Different To ‘I Stayed Up Late Tired’
Staying up past a bedtime you know is sensible and feeling a bit groggy the next day, may be inconvenient and leave you reaching for an energy drink, but it’s a choice and something that can be avoided. It’s also unlikely to be a debilitating level of fatigue.
It’s Different To ‘I was Out All Night Tired’
Before my thyroid diagnosis, I could be out all night partying, and roll in to bed in the early hours of the morning, waking up a few hours later, and feeling rough (especially if I drank), but still be able to function. I would possibly regret my choices a little, but it wouldn’t stop me from doing it again as I enjoyed my night still. I’d mope about the house feeling tired most the day but I could still move about easily and function like everyone else.
It’s Different To ‘Hungover Tired’
Being hungover is unpleasant, but people will still drink enough to put themselves in that state again, whereas I don’t think anyone would choose to experience the heaviness of thyroid fatigue.
Being ‘hungover tired’ can feel gross, sluggish and regretful, but most people are over it by the evening of that day or within two days maximum. ‘Thyroid tired’ doesn’t disappear that quickly unfortunately, and it doesn’t come with the ‘well it was worth it for the good time I had’ upside.
It’s Different To ‘I Exercised Tired’
How many of us have begun a new exercise routine, perhaps going in to it a bit too hard too quickly, and soon felt the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness? You know the feeling – achey muscles that can feel stiff to move and as if they’re very bruised. Usually felt for 24 to 72 hours following exercise, this kind of tired isn’t widely affecting as it affects only the muscles and perhaps a slight overall reduction in energy, but doesn’t stop you from being able to function normally.
Also, with ‘exercise tired’, you know you’re getting some benefits out of it too. Whether that’s improved fitness or a more toned physique. Unfortunately, ‘thyroid tired’ doesn’t offer benefits like this. In fact, thyroid fatigue hinders many people from being able to exercise at all.
It’s Different To ‘Pregnancy Tired’
Whilst pregnant (and with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s) I of course felt tired quite often, but I was surprised that it was no where near as bad as ‘thyroid tired’.
My feet would get achey sooner than I was used to and I would be yawning throughout the day, often needing an afternoon nap during the first and third trimesters, but it was still a breeze compared to the thyroid fatigue I had felt before.
In fact, I felt that having thyroid disease prior to pregnancy had prepared me for symptoms such as pregnancy fatigue very well. I could function very well on pregnancy fatigue, as the bar for the level of fatigue I was used to with my health conditions was set much higher.
I’ve also met thyroid patients who told me that the tiredness they felt after childbirth was no where near as bad as their thyroid fatigue.
It’s Different To ‘Being a Parent Tired’
Parenting is hard. It takes a lot of physical and mental energy. There are sleepless nights, early morning starts and demands placed on you that can feel hard to keep up with. In my experience, ‘new parent tired’ is the closest it gets to ‘thyroid tired’, but it’s still slightly different.
Thyroid fatigue affects brain function in a heavier way – often leading to brain fog, reduced cognitive ability and forgetfulness that has been compared to dementia. Thyroid fatigue also often feels like you have the flu, affecting your ability to move around the house or get simple tasks done. When you’re tired with young children, you often run on knowing that you still have to feed them, look after them and keep them alive, before falling in to bed at the end of the day and thinking “Phew, I’m tired!”
Unfortunately, thyroid fatigue can leave you without the ability to do simple tasks for yourself, let alone anyone else.
Walking through treacle in lead boots. A shower tiring you out so much that you have to rest afterwards. Randomly falling sleep around a friend’s house (and feeling rude for doing so). Getting fourteen hours sleep or four hours sleep, and feel exactly the same after both.
At my worst with thyroid fatigue, I felt like a twenty-one-year-old in a ninety-one-year-old’s body. I was lucky just to get to the toilet upstairs, unaided. My ability to keep up work, relationships and housework was diminished. Some people are even unable to work.
I’ve experienced all of the above types of ‘tired’, but they really are different to ‘thyroid tired’ AKA thyroid fatigue.
How would you describe thyroid fatigue?
Related Article: Thyroid Patients Explain What Thyroid Fatigue Really Feels Like
Please remember that if you’re a thyroid patient living with lingering physical symptoms, that you don’t have to live this way. To address why you may still be feeling unwell (often despite being on thyroid medication too), please see this article and go through each suggestion, putting your thyroid jigsaw back together. You can get your health back.
amyJune 7, 2022 at 3:22 am
i describe my exhaution like narcolepsy. every single cell of my body just gets heavy and deflates. absolutely terrifying when driving. i feel like I’m unable to be alone most times. it’s controlling and ruining my professional and private lives. 😭
JeanJune 6, 2022 at 6:05 pm
Apologies in advance for a fairly long post but being part of a community of people going through the same as me means there’s a fair bit of detail here.
I’d been going through a cycle of having intense fatigue however much or little sleep I got for probably the majority of my life so far. This had been going on since I’d been in school, if I’m honest. I fell asleep in a lesson once and woke up to the whole class laughing but I never knew if it was at me, if I’d snored, or what. When I worked full time I would fall asleep in our team meetings or just sort of blank out for a few minutes only to have my team manager asking if I was with them (I thought it was because our team meetings were so boring, tbh!) and for years I’d been going to the doctors with this lethargy only to be told every time that my blood results had come back “normal” and “there’s nothing wrong” with me. Until one of the nurse-practitioners at our surgery had my blood tested (again) last year. When the results came back she told me I needed to come back in (I think it was) a month to have the tests redone as I was at the high end of normal for the thyroid results. I’d also been told this in the past but nothing else was ever done about it at that point and I didn’t know then what I do now. So I got the following bloods taken on Christmas Eve 2021. The results came back between Christmas and New Year. I had a phone appointment made to speak to a doctor (it’s still difficult to get face-to-face appointments because of the ‘rona) but the doctor called me the day before and told me that in that time before the last result and this one the results had shot basically off the chart and I was started on Levothyroxine the next day. I was told I’d need to be tested every three months to monitor, but when my last sample was taken, even though I asked the nurse taking it if the thyroid function tests would be run on this because the doctor needed to know if my Levothyroxine dose needed adjusting and SHE. SAID. YES, that was the *only one* that was left off it! Another doctor phoned me (not the one that had originally diagnosed me). I told her that one of the main reasons for this sample was to check the thyroid results and it hadn’t been done. She apologised for that and I had another sampling appointment. On that, the result was a little lower but not enough, so the Levothyroxine dose was doubled. My next samle session is at the start of July, because this second doctor I spoke to is requesting a Hashimoto’s antibody test as well to see if I have “ordinary” hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s. This is at my request because I’d been doing a bit of background reading and while testing for Hashimoto’s seems to be pretty routine in the US, it isn’t over here in the UK because of the cost. So even though people diagnosed with hypothyroidism may have something a bit different which could need slightly different treatment, this is something we seem to have to say we actually WANT to be tested for (or, at least that seems to be the case in the area of England I live in). She’s also going to be requesting folate, other B vitamin and iron tests to see how my vitamin and mineral levels are doing. Sometimes it’s damned difficult to even get healthcare professionals to listen to you (and also that I don’t sit stuffing my face 24/7 and I wasn’t just saying I go to Weight Watchers to shut them up, because weight has been an issue for a long time and that also aggravates my osteoarthritis, which I hadn’t mentioned above). I seem to have quite a few friends (all female) with the same symptoms as I have and I try to get them to get in touch with their doctors to get them to test for hypothyroidism. One of my best friends also has sarcoidosis and is meant to be regularly tested anyway but because of “the ongoing situation” she hasn’t had any blood tests for over a year – they were meant to be checking her thyroid levels too. She has no idea where she is on her health journey at the moment.
Dianne EllisJune 5, 2022 at 8:19 pm
I have hyper/hypo thyroidism with Hashimoto’s. The way I explain the fatigue is my whole frontal lobe of my brain and behind my eyes are literally exhausted. And it comes over me in a blink of an eye. I can get the best nights sleep and only the first two hours of waking up is my best. After that I’m dragging. When your that tired you tend to eat more. I can’t hang out as long as everybody else when I go to functions, or when I’m doing chores around the house I can only do a small amount and then I have to take a rest. When I’m working out, I feel like somebody beat me up I don’t feel energetic and good like everybody else does. The question is how do we get help for it?!?! I’m sick and tired of talking about it, all we do is talk about it . Let’s focus on a solution. What’s the solution?!?!?
Jennifer GrabowskiDecember 7, 2021 at 12:46 am
I have hypothyroidism and Hashimotos disease. I am on 2 different thyroid medications, 6 pills daily, 8 on the weekends and they still have no impact. I’ve gone up on my, down, up, sideways, agh nothing. I fall asleep everywhere. I plan my days okay I have 6 minutes where, quick take a nap. It’s depressing beyond words and I hate it. Any words or advice?
– giving up on normal life, this is how I live
Rachel HillDecember 7, 2021 at 4:56 pm
Hi Jennifer, it can be useful to start by checking which thyroid tests you are having run and if they’re optimised. Have you checked these? https://www.theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/tests-you-need-to-have-as-a-thyroid-patient/
EileenJuly 7, 2021 at 2:53 pm
Very bad right now up and down
Janet shermanMay 8, 2021 at 10:11 pm
My thyroid tiredness is link with me being very cold too. I will finally give in and crawl in bed and be covered with blankets to warm up. I will sleep for at least 3 hours.
Dora J. MoseJune 26, 2020 at 2:42 pm
I have been in a battle with my doctors over being tired all the time. No energy, no stamina, nothing. I’m on all sorts of B vitamins, being vegan/plant based for my diet, my PCP ran B vitamin lab work and did find I’m deficient in many of the B’s. But you would think that after several months of being on the supplements I’d notice a difference. I don’t. Doctor is having me do another battery of tests to see what the problem is, a corticosteroid test, an insulin reaction test, and a growth hormone test. I don’t know about them, feel they are going to come back all in normal limits.
I am a Thyroid Cancer victim, I have no thyroid, am on Synthroid 112mcg daily, along with all the B vitamins and others. I used to work a 60hr a week night shift job, a 16hr a week part time side job, volunteer as a firefighter/officer, very active in my church, and still had time for family and friends, now I barely make minimums at fire dept. I’ve all but eliminated my activity at church, don’t work at any job right now except being my own patient advocate. And I’m zapped. Sleeping 14 hrs, or only 4 hours. No difference. I force myself to get up and going to do what I have to. People always tell me that if I’d get more sleep, or if I take a lavender bubble bath before bed, or try this EO or the other, Drink a cup of warm milk before bed, all good advise but, doesn’t work. Still so tired hard to function to get things done.
dSeptember 29, 2020 at 6:18 am
Please consider taking T3 along with Synthroid. T3 is the active hormone needed for energy. I took Synthroid for 5 and a half years after having my thyroid removed from Thyroid cancer. My endocrinologist did not believe that anything but Synthroid was needed. TSH checking is their golden rule about Thyroid health. TSH only checks for thyroid stimulating hormone and does not say how well you are converting T4 to T3. I switched from Synthroid to Armour Thyroid. Depending on your doctor, they may discourage you from taking Armour. Long story short, I have been on Armour for 4 and a half years. I feel better, but am still tired. Many hypothyroid patients are deficient in Vitamin D. What hormones does a healthy Thyroid put out? I think this is a clue that treating hypothyroidism with T4 only treatment is lacking.