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 underactive thyroid, 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 the way I act and feel 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 I wonder if my family and friends are experiencing during certain situations are actually just the side effects of hypothyroidism. 

Monarch Butterfly

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region on Flickr

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.

Lack of thyroid hormones makes you feel tired, but because I’ve never lived without hypothyroidism, I feel completely normal and like I’m fully awake. I’m so used to it that I can function just like everyone else can. However, if someone develops hypothyroidism later in life, they might feel drained because they have previous knowledge of feeling more awake.  

I’m always able to get my work done to the best of my abilities, but when I feel really motivated, I feel the most wide awake (which is probably the normal amount of awake people usually feel, but to me, it feels like I just drank several energy drinks). This is when I’ll work so hard that I’ll do my readings right through lunch or clean my room and work on Spoon articles at 1 am. 

Mornings 

I wake up, brush my teeth, go down to eat breakfast, go back upstairs to get changed and... sit down because I'm already out of breath. Though only for a short period of time, I get breathless easily from simple tasks like jumping into my jeans, making my bed, or changing my bed sheets – not being the active type also doesn't help. 

Metabolism is known to be at its fastest in the morning, but as a person with hypo, you may notice your metabolism to be quite slow so if you're trying to lose weight, it may be difficult. If your thyroid hormones are low and you're unaware of it, you may notice yourself gaining lots of weight fast while eating a normal and healthy diet. 

Speaking of eating, I'm supposed to take my medicine before meals or 2 hours after. Though I've been taking it for as long as I can remember, I somehow still forget because I usually take it a few hours after dinner right before I go to bed. 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 then start taking it again.  

Mid-Day

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.

Throughout the week, I also experience known side effects like a hoarse sounding cough and acid reflux. Though lactose intolerance has nothing to do with hypothyroidism, not being able to consume a lot of dairy or have large amounts of foods that contain acid, is unfortunate because I love eating and trying new things. 

Night

If you know me personally, I'm always talking about desserts. But hypothyroidism also causes a loss of appetite so while I do very much enjoy good 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. 

When it's time for bed, I use a fleece blanket and 4 other blankets – in the summer. The insomnia is also a pain. 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, but the later I sleep, the earlier I wake up so in some ways, this is good.

pizza, beer, tea
Myra Enriquez

Sometimes when I can't sleep, I get these odd 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. Speaking of cramps, ladies, your cycle will be off and/or heavy if you have hypothyroidism.

Pre-finals is stressful for everyone and I get nervous before every exam, but on the night before my first economics exam, I could feel my heart rate speeding up making me so nervous that I stayed up all night searching if it's common for 18-year-olds to have heart attacks (first all nighter well spent). I ended up being extremely tired the whole day leading up to the final. 

On that note, post-finals is also when most students bring the alcohol back out, but if you have hypothyroidism, you’re not supposed to drink. You’re also not supposed to be eating foods high in white sugar, but I make an exception for that one a lot.  

beer, wine, liquor, alcohol, ice
Alyssa Nurre

I’m glad I finally decided to read up on what hypothyroidism is and what its side effects are because for as long as I can remember, I just took my medication and went on with my day always asking people things like if they were cold or if it was just me. I’d usually come to the conclusion that I was just the type of person that got cold easily because the things I experience day to day are all very common. This makes it difficult to recognize if they are a result of my thyroid or are just things I'm meant to experience for common reasons like everyone else. 

If you notice you're experiencing many of the same symptoms and side effects (or the extreme opposites of them), a simple blood test could help figure out if you're under-active (or over active) in thyroid hormones because it's always better to be safe than sorry.