Sleep apnea is the medical name
for when a person frequently wakes up because of the inability to
breath. There are many diseases or conditions that can cause this, but
the most common is obesity. Hypothyroidism is when there are
insufficient amounts of thyroid hormones being produced.
Hypothyroidism causes many symptoms throughout the body including
fatigue, weight gain and poor muscle tone. The two most common
causes of hypothyroidism are an insufficient amount of iodine in the
diet and childbirth. Many women develop this condition within a
year of giving birth.
If the sleep apnea occurs frequently, it will obviously
have a profound effect on the ability of the person to function the next
day and can lead to major medical issues if it persists. In many
situations, the person is not even aware that they are being forced
awake because of breathing problems. In most situations, sleep
apnea is caused by a structural blockage of trachea, usually by the
The link between sleep apnea and hypothyroidism is related to one of the
minor symptoms of hypothyroidism, swelling of the tongue, mouth and
throat. When sleeping in the prone position on the back, the
throat and mouth already have reduced capacity to allow air through, but
it is made much worse because of the swollen tongue. It is easy
for the tongue to completely block breathing, which forces the body to
wake up the individual. Unfortunately, in many individuals this is not
enough to make them change positions, so they rapidly go back to sleep
in the same position and the blockage repeats itself.
|Hypothyroidism can cause feeling of fatigue and muscle
weakness, which is compounded when the person also is not sleeping
properly. Hypothyroidism and sleep apnea are also linked because a
frequent symptom of hypothyroidism is rapid weight gain leading to
obesity and obesity is a leading cause of sleep apnea even in
individuals without hypothyroidism. There doesn´t seem to be any
connection between people experiencing sleep apnea later developing
hypothyroidism, instead it appears that sleep apnea is just a frequent
symptom of hypothyroidism.
Because sleep apnea is usually a symptom of some disorder or
obesity, sleep apnea is usually not treated directly, instead the
treatment is aimed at relieving the underlying condition. In the case of
hypothyroidism and sleep apnea, the hypothyroidism is treated with
dietary changes and iodine supplements or else the individual is
prescribed Thyroxine, which is the most important thyroid hormone.
Thyroxine treatment can be difficult because of the uniqueness of
individuals. It usually takes months, sometimes years for the
correct dosage to be determined, and in that time the person can swing
wildly in their energy levels.
The link between sleep apnea and hypothyroidism is mainly
that hypothyroidism causes swelling of the tongue and throat, which
makes it much more likely for obstruction to occur. Hypothyroidism
can also cause weight gain and obesity, which is frequently associated
with sleep apnea. No research has yet indicated that sleep apnea
can cause hypothyroidism.
Reviewed: Peter Sedesse, MD