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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.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial and influential contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.