081 // Sleep, fatigue, and Autoimmune Diseases

Health with Hashimoto’s is your free weekly podcast to discover true, simple, and sustainable tips to improve your energy and health.

How well do you sleep? Could sleep be a root cause of your Hashimoto’s? Or is poor sleep a result of your Hashimoto’s? In this episode of “Health with Hashimoto’s,” we’re diving deep into the relationship between sleep, inflammation, fatigue, and Hashimoto’s disease.

I’ll share with you how sleep deprivation can trigger inflammation and worsen your symptoms. Plus, I’ll give you a simple addition to your bedtime ritual tip to help with both your sleep and your thyroid health.

You will find this episode below in audio format and a written summary because I know not everyone is an audio learner. Some links may be affiliate links that will support me without increasing your price.

Each episode of Health with Hashimoto’s is for informational and educational purposes. Please discuss any questions or concerns with your trusted healthcare professional.

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Mentioned on This Episode:

Related Episodes:

023 // Sleep: How your sleep can be a trigger for Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune diseases and how to sleep better


My favorite bedtime tea is “40 Winks” by Adagio Tea. Their plain chamomile tea is great, too! It is made of the finest chamomile flowers from the Nile River Valley in Egypt.


Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune and Related Disorders

Role of sleep deprivation in immune-related disease risk and outcomes

Chamomile Tea


Esther Yunkin, RN speaking to a woman holding a coffee mug. Both seated on a couch.

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Understanding the Link Between Sleep and Autoimmune Disease

The Vital Role of Sleep in Autoimmune Health

Sleep and autoimmune disease are closely intertwined, much like the classic chicken and egg scenario. Let’s break it down. First, as I’ve emphasized countless times before, sleep is when your body undergoes crucial healing processes. In the case of autoimmune conditions, where the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues, adequate sleep plays a pivotal role. We need just the right amount of sleep—not too much, not too little—to maintain balance. Sufficient sleep allows our bodies to heal effectively.

The Inflammatory Impact of Poor Sleep

When we fail to get adequate sleep, or when our sleep quality is compromised, several negative effects ensue. One of the most significant consequences is increased inflammation.

Inflammation is a key player in the development and progression of virtually every disease known to humankind. You don’t have to take my word for it; head over to PubMed, the go-to database for published medical research, and search for “inflammation” alongside the name of any disease you’re curious about. You’ll likely find a plethora of studies linking inflammation to that specific condition. This concept isn’t new—it’s been around for decades. I first came across it about 20 years ago, and it fascinated me then as it does now. The idea that such diverse diseases, affecting different organs and systems, could share a common denominator is quite profound. And that common denominator is inflammation.

So, when our sleep is inadequate, our inflammation levels rise. And with increased inflammation comes an elevated risk of developing or exacerbating conditions for which we may be genetically predisposed. It’s essential to remember that each of us is unique, with our own genetic makeup, life experiences, and environmental influences. Therefore, the impact of increased inflammation due to poor sleep will vary from person to person. Nonetheless, the consistent finding is that insufficient sleep leads to heightened inflammation, which is a fundamental driver of disease.

Inflammation and Fatigue

Increased inflammation within the body often correlates with heightened fatigue. This fatigue, in turn, prompts a natural inclination to seek more rest. However, the irony lies in the fact that despite spending more time in bed, the quality of sleep may diminish. This cycle of inflammation and fatigue can be so frustrating.

I personally experienced this phenomenon. It’s not fun.

Upon receiving my Ōura Ring, I discovered a stark revelation about my sleep quality. Despite spending extensive hours in bed, my deep sleep duration was minimal. Ideally, around 20% of your sleep should be deep sleep, yet I was barely hitting 5%. This revelation was crucial, especially as I navigated the challenges of Hashimoto’s diagnosis, recognizing that sleep was a root cause of my autoimmune disease.

The Cycle of Sleep, Inflammation, and Pain

But here’s the kicker: inadequate sleep can exacerbate inflammation, leading to increased fatigue—a vicious cycle ensues.

What’s more, for individuals with Hashimoto’s, there’s an additional layer to this cycle: pain. Hashimoto’s sufferers may experience varied forms of pain, from joint discomfort to skin sensitivity. This pain can disrupt sleep patterns. The resulting inadequate sleep can intensify pain, further aggravating insomnia—a relentless cycle that perpetuates discomfort and sleep disturbances.

Breaking the Cycle to Address Inflammation and Sleep

Interrupting the cycle of inflammation and disease progression is important. We want to take action ASAP since inflammation can serve as a primary root cause of Hashimoto’s, alongside inadequate sleep. Both factors contribute to a vicious cycle, exacerbating each other and fueling the progression of Hashimoto’s, whether it’s the initial diagnosis or a flare-up.

The Link Between Sleep and Autoimmune Risk

Furthermore, the repercussions of inadequate sleep extend beyond exacerbating existing conditions—they elevate the risk of developing autoimmune disorders. Although the exact mechanisms remain elusive, research indicates a clear association between insufficient sleep and heightened autoimmune risk. This risk applies broadly across autoimmune diseases, highlighting the significance of prioritizing quality sleep for overall health.

Many studies have demonstrated this connection, revealing that insufficient sleep increases susceptibility to autoimmune diseases. In essence, inadequate sleep leaves the body vulnerable, potentially triggering misguided immune responses and autoimmune pathology.

knowledge of the immunopathology of autoimmune diseases have disclosed new concepts on the impact of sleep deprivation on autoimmune disease process, showing that sleep deprivation can promote a breakdown of immunologic self-tolerance.Role of sleep deprivation in immune-related disease risk and outcomes

In other words, when you are sleep-deprived, your body can’t tolerate itself as well. And I don’t know about you, but I have felt that. I have felt that so deeply. Have you ever had those days when you’re just so annoyed and you don’t want somebody else to go away? You want yourself to go away.

It’s kind of like that for your body. When you are sleep-deprived, your body can’t tolerate your own body as well. And we want to be able to tolerate our own body. We want to embrace who we are.

You are valuable. You are valuable as a whole person. Your body, your mind, your spirit; you are valuable.

The Role of Sleep and Autoimmunity

Our aim is to cultivate a sense of acceptance and tolerance within our bodies, embracing every facet of our being—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Because sleep deprivation can undermine this self-tolerance, sleep becomes a fundamental factor in how you manage your autoimmune conditions. It not only serves as a root cause but also exacerbates existing autoimmune problems, creating a cyclical pattern that perpetuates discomfort and sleep disturbances. Breaking this cycle requires strategic interventions aimed at improving sleep quality and reducing inflammation.

Embracing Bedtime Rituals: The Power of Chamomile Tea

Amidst the plethora of sleep-enhancing strategies, I’ve got one simple and thyroid-protective tip for you today—chamomile tea. While research on its sleep efficacy is mixed, the ritual of enjoying a warm cup of chamomile tea before bed holds undeniable benefits. Just as bedtime routines are essential for children, they are equally crucial for adults. Engaging in calming activities before bed helps prepare the mind, body, and spirit for restful sleep.

The Surprising Benefits of Chamomile Tea for Thyroid Health

Beyond its soothing properties, chamomile tea harbors a remarkable benefit for individuals with thyroid problems. Research indicates that consuming chamomile tea regularly can significantly reduce the risk of thyroid disorders, including thyroid cancer, by up to 80%. This simple yet potent intervention offers a compelling incentive to incorporate chamomile tea into your nightly ritual, potentially mitigating thyroid-related risks.

If you are looking for a good tea, I love the whole-flower chamomile teas from Adagio Tea. It’s so much better than the flower-dust that comes in the bags from my grocery store. Adagio’s 40-Winks is my favorite sleep blend.

In essence, by embracing bedtime rituals and incorporating chamomile tea into your nightly routine, you not only promote relaxation but also safeguard your thyroid health—a win-win scenario!

Prioritizing Sleep for Overall Health and Autoimmune Protection

Sleeping well isn’t just about feeling refreshed—it’s about safeguarding your overall health. By prioritizing restorative sleep, you can reduce your risk for autoimmune problems and enhance your overall well-being. A strong immune system is one of the many benefits of quality sleep. When your body gets adequate rest, your immune system operates at its best, minimizing the likelihood of misguided attacks on healthy tissues and reducing inflammation.

Join the Holistic Hashimoto’s Course

If you’re ready to dig deeper into addressing your Hashimoto’s root causes, I invite you to explore the Holistic Hashimoto’s course. In this comprehensive program, I will help you tackle your root causes and empower you with simple and sustainable strategies to enhance your health. From diet and lifestyle to environmental factors, the course is designed to support every aspect of your well-being.

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Images used in this post by Kate Stone Matheson, Tony Tran, and  Zoe on Unsplash

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Text: Health with Hashimoto's episode 81: Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune Disease. Image of woman sleeping face down with her arms hanging over the chair
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A cat's sleeping face peeks out from a pile of white bedding. Text: Health with Hashimoto's episode 81: Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune Disease.