For many people, falling asleep happens shortly after turning everything off and getting into bed. For those same people, 8 hours of sleep is more than enough and a cup of coffee in the morning is all you need to get the day started. However, if you're living with an under active thyroid (otherwise referred to as hypothyroidism), falling asleep can be a bit of a chore while that 1 cup of coffee will make you feel like you’re having a hot flash.

There are a lot of things I'm still learning about myself since I was born with hypothyroidism and have no "normal" pre-diagnosis life to compare it to. For this reason, I've decided to research more about it and how it affects my everyday life. So far, I've learned that a lot of the things my friends and family look at me funny for doing or experiencing can be explained by the side effects of hypothyroidism. 

Photo by Justin DoCanto on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

In short, hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland, which is shaped like a butterfly at the front of your neck, isn't making enough thyroid hormone. This hormone is required for the pituitary gland to function in your brain and to regulate body temperature, metabolism, and heart rate, among many other things

So what do I experience day to day, and what should you look out for if you think you might have an under active thyroid? 

Being Tired and Breathless

I wake up, brush my teeth, go downstairs to eat breakfast, go back upstairs to get changed and... sit down again because I'm already out of breath. The simplest of tasks tire me out quite quickly and while that seems pretty normal for someone who is inactive, and don't get me wrong, I sure am, I've been working on my stamina and find that I still have trouble changing my sheets or making my bed.  

As if being breathless from putting on my jeans wasn't enough, lack of thyroid hormones also generally makes you feel tired. That being said, having never lived without hypothyroidism, the level of alertness I feel seems normal to me, but if you or someone you know develops hypothyroidism later in life, it becomes more likely that you will be able to really feel that decline and feeling of being drained. 

On that note, let's also talk metabolism for a second. As a person with hypothyroidism, you might notice that your metabolism has slowed. Likewise, hypothyroid could be the reason why losing weight has become difficult or explain why you're gaining weight while eating a normal and healthy diet – both problems I've heard many people mention before being diagnosed with it (60% of people who have a thyroid condition are unaware!).

Heart Palpitations

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

While my metabolism seems to be okay, I believe this is likely because of the medicine I've been taking to regulate my hormone levels. That being said, although I've been taking my meds for as long as I can remember, there are still days when I somehow forget. As a result, I'm woken up by my heart feeling like it's going to beat out of my chest whenever I forget to take my prescription for a few days in a row and having heart palpitations is something I only recently figured out was I side effect of this condition. 

Extreme Temperature Changes

Photo by Sdf Rf on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

Thyroid hormones are also responsible for body temperature and this is why I usually get very cold, or on an odd day, very hot. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting hot flashes at 19 while at other times, I’m the only one wearing a winter coat in the beginning of April or a sweater in the middle of July.... and once night time rolls around, no matter the season, I find myself underneath layers and layers of blankets.

Loss of Appetite 

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

If you know me personally, I'm always talking about food. But hypothyroidism also causes a loss of appetite so while I do very much enjoy eating, thinking and dreaming about food, I sometimes just can't eat as much as I thought I would have liked to at the beginning of a meal and almost always have leftovers. 

I should also note that if you do have hypothyroidism, you’re not supposed to be eating foods high in white sugar, but.. it's so hard. 

Insomnia 

Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

Now this one, I don't know... maybe I'm a night owl or just have bad sleeping habits. That being said, insomnia is common to those with hypothyroidism and somehow once 12 am rolls around, I feel more and more wide awake as the night goes on and can only seem to fall asleep between 1 am and 4 am. 

Physical PAIN!

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

Sometimes when I can't sleep, I get these leg cramps that feel similar to growing pains, but let's face it, there's no hope for me to grow anymore and reaching the top shelf will always be a struggle. There are also some days when my entire body in general is in such horrible pain making it hard to do much without feeling uncomfortable. And if you're a lady, hypothyroidism will likely mess with your cycle and/or make it extremely heavy. 

It's been quite difficult being able to recognize if what I'm feeling is a result of my thyroid or just a common experience because I've had this condition my whole life. The important thing is that, even though I do experience all of these things, they happen at a much lesser degree than they used to. Thanks to modern medicine, better eating and exercise habits. It's safe to say I've been getting back to "normal". Whether that's the same normal you experience or not, I'll never know! 

With this in mind, I'm no doctor, but if you notice you're experiencing many of the same symptoms and side effects (or the extreme opposites of them which could mean you have hyperthyroidism), a simple blood test could help figure out if you have an under (or over) active thyroid.