What Is The Relationship Between Hypothyroidism & Sleep Apnea?



  • Sleep apnea is an increasingly widespread disorder affecting millions of people around the world. 
  • This condition causes pauses in breathing while asleep, leading to fatigue, insomnia, and other health issues.
  • Hypothyroidism – a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones – has also been associated with this sleep disorder.
  • Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, also known as an underactive thyroid. 
  • While symptoms of hypothyroidism may not manifest right away, left untreated, it can eventually lead to other health issues like high cholesterol or heart problems. 
  • Blood tests can diagnose hypothyroidism. 
  • Treatment with thyroid hormone medication usually is straightforward, safe, and effective once you and your healthcare provider identify the appropriate dosage.

What is Hypothyroidism?

  • Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, also known as an underactive thyroid. 
  • While hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages, it may lead to other health issues like high cholesterol or heart issues if left untreated. 

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

  • The severity of hypothyroidism affects the symptoms experienced. Typically, problems will progress slowly and may appear over several years.
  • At first, you may not notice hypothyroidism symptoms – such as fatigue and weight gain – until they become more prominent. 
  • However, with time, your metabolism slows down, and you begin experiencing more noticeable issues like fatigue or weakness, even with adequate rest. 
  • Some Major Symptoms include:

Weight Gain: An unappreciated increase in weight despite decreased appetite or no modification to diet or physical activity level.

Cold Intolerance: Feeling cold or having a decreased tolerance to cold temperatures.

Dry Skin: Skin that appears dry, flaky, or itchy.

Constipation: Difficulty passing stools or having infrequent bowel movements.

Hair Loss: Thinning hair, especially around the scalp and eyebrows

Joint Pain: Pain or stiffness in joints

Muscle Weakness: Muscle weakness in arms and legs.

Depression is experiencing sadness or low spirits and a lack of interest in activities.

Irregular Menstrual Periods: Heavy or irregular periods

It is important to remember that not everyone with hypothyroidism experiences symptoms or mild ones that go undetected.

 If you have any of the above signs, speak with your healthcare provider, who can run diagnostic tests to rule out hypothyroidism or another underlying condition for your symptoms.

Hypothyroidism and Sleep Apnea 

  • Hypothyroidism has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type. 
  • OSA occurs when muscles at the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open while you sleep, leading to disruptions in breathing that may include snoring, gasping for air, or disrupted sleep patterns. 
  • Studies have demonstrated that people with hypothyroidism are at an increased risk for developing OSA due to changes to tissues within their airways.

What is Sleep Apnea?

  • Sleep apnea is an undiagnosed sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions in breathing while asleep. 
  • These pauses can last from seconds to minutes and occur multiple times throughout the night. 
  • Over time, these repeated episodes may lead to various health complications like high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke.

Sleep Apnea Treatment 

  • If you suspect you have sleep apnea, getting an accurate diagnosis and receiving appropriate treatment is paramount. 
  • Lifestyle changes like losing weight, abstaining from alcohol before bedtime, or using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine are all effective treatments. 
  • CPAP works by pumping air pressure through a mask into the airway during sleep; in some cases, treating hypothyroidism may also improve symptoms associated with this disorder.

Thyroid Hormones and Sleep Apnea

  • Thyroid hormones play a vital role in controlling metabolism, which impacts sleep quality. 
  • Hypothyroidism can slow metabolism, leading to fatigue, sluggishness, and weight gain – symptoms that could contribute to sleep apnea by making it difficult to breathe during sleep
  • Furthermore, hypothyroidism may cause other sleep disorders like insomnia or restless leg syndrome, which further disrupt snooze time.

Can Your Thyroid Be Causing Sleep Apnea?

  • Your thyroid could be to blame for sleep apnea. 
  • When the gland secretes too much or too little essential hormones, it can lead to these disorders and more. 
  • If you have hypothyroidism and are experiencing symptoms related to sleep apnea, speak with a medical professional immediately; treating hypothyroidism while having sleep apnea could have serious health consequences and put you at risk for cardiovascular issues.

Treating Hypothyroidism and Sleep Apnea

  • Our experience suggests that the apnea index does not decrease significantly in all patients with hypothyroidism and sleep apnea when euthyroidism is achieved. 
  • Treating hypothyroidism in the presence of sleep apnea is potentially hazardous and may lead to cardiovascular complications. 
  • Management by a combination of CPAP and low-dose thyroxine is helpful in this situation.
  • To address hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone replacement therapy may be prescribed. 
  • For many years, obstructive sleep apnea was treated with a CPAP machine that kept your airway open with forced airflow; however, nowadays, oral appliances work just as effectively and provide more comfort during use.
  • This appliance is constructed of clear, smooth plastic and designed to fit comfortably in your mouth, shifting your lower jaw forward. 
  • This slight shift helps open your airway to breathe while sleeping.
  • If you’re experiencing any symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, it’s time to see your family physician. 
  • A simple blood test can give the diagnosis. 


  • Hypothyroidism and sleep apnea are two conditions that can profoundly impact your health and quality of life. 
  • If you’re struggling with symptoms like snoring, fatigue, or insomnia due to either situation, it’s time for you to speak with your healthcare provider. 
  • They will assess whether hypothyroidism or another underlying issue contributes to the problem and suggest appropriate treatments. 
  • With proper diagnosis and management comes improved sleep and overall well-being.

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