Thyroid UK
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Sleep apnea

I have started getting a very scary sleep disturbance, where I feel a sinking feeling, as if I am dying, I wake up in a panic, heart pounding. This happens a lot of times throughout the night, every night. I am underactive on 125mg levothyroxine, does sleep apnea (if it is that) happen if you are underactive, need more levo or underactive taking too much. thanks

10 Replies

Hi For the thyroid, make sure you are having the correct treatment with the tSH, T4 and Free T3 tests, common to need Levo ( T4) and T3 on a script. T3 helps all the symptoms, slightly lowers the TSH and if overweight usually related to Low Free T3. Important for safety to have the test first.

Sleep apnoea, very common but not specifically related to thyroid. of course, if autoimmune with nodules and enlargement can effect it. Sleep apnoea means you stop breathing when asleep, if lucky wake for a gulp of air choking. If sleeping with any one they would normally notice. I do this many times an hour, severe case. You need to be referred to a sleep clinic, most large hospitals.You will then have a home monitor for one night, even if they think you are OK. You do not have to be overweight , but it is common to be, I am very thin and my consultant, because he believed me was amazed, turned out I had the worst case know.The treatment is simple you have a mask called a CPAP, it s not nice, takes a while to get used to but you have to persevere if not tolerated tolerated you can have a permanent tracheotomy, no recommended. I have to wear one even if having a doze, but no alternative, I still stop breathing quite a lot even with the CPAP ( unusual), I am also very underweight.If it makes your mouth sore, or if like me you have Sjogrens then ask for a humidifier, make it more expensive for them , so not given automatically.So, right now ask for the test!

Best wishes,


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I had sleep study done privately and mine is moderatly bad' 16 episodes per hour, then found out I was hypothyroid as well, was wondering whether to get machnine privately or through NHS as the apaps are quite expensive. Also I would prefer to speak to sleep specialist about machine rather than just buy some thing blind. I was hoping if the thyroid got sorted out I would,not need machine's but I still wake up with headaches, in the night feeling breathless, so I will have to sort this problem out as well as improve my thyroid. Any advice is appreciated.


Hi get one NHS as I do as often need adjustment and breakdown, all free NHS. I used private medicine mostly, NHS very simple for this.Ask for a humidifier too as helps and not automatically given.. Do not delay, my heart stops when having an episode.I am hpo with swollen gland and nodules., it must make it worse but thyroid is controlled By the way I am very thin so do not fit the pattern



It might not be specifically Thyroid related.

It also may not be what I am describing here either, but let it act as an illustration that it's not wise just to assume without looking into it... with sleep apnoea, someone else will be able to confirm your suspicions and describe how you sleep, or snore and stop breathing (or record yourself with a video camera or laptop and Web cam, it does work, I have done it!) I was having breathing problems due to sinus congestion, and was having what looked exactly like sleep apnoea too and I would stop breathing often during the night, plus I felt lousy in the morning with headaches and my blood pressure was well raised... but to be honest I was the only one NOT very aware of it, but I was very clearly stopping breathing on seeing it, and I have even spent money on a sleep study as a result! Steroid nasal spray sorted that out thankfully!

The waking in panic thing was not teh same issue though, I was having was something similar to what you describe, and it turned out to be related to Reactive Hypoglycaemia, & I turned out to be pre-diabetic (Metabolic syndrome, whatever you want to call it!) so during the night my blood glucose was getting VERY low, and my body would react by pumping out a load of adrenaline to keep me ticking over, and I would wake in a mad panic! (Like someone had chased me trying to murder me!!)

I now control that 100% with a low carb diet, which was a lot better than the 0% advice and help I got from an Endocrinologist, who didn't even know what I was talking about,;thankfully other people do know about such things!

Just don't assume though, first step might be to let someone actually just see how you are sleeping, and what actually is happening!


Hi Picton Thank you for your reply. Your comments make me think maybe it's not apnoea, as my hubby only wakes because I am jumping out of bed in panic!. I also have low blood pressure, so maybe during the night it goes even lower. I will read up on Hypoglycaemia also.


I would have thought you'd have some feeling of breathlessness, rather than just panic, as you woke up. I think I may have had sleep apnoea before I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, and I used to sit bolt upright in bed convinced I was suffocating but of course always found I could breathe in fine and would feel better very quickly. It hasn't happened since taking thyroid hormone, whatever it was.


That's not what sleep apnoea is like generally... there are plenty of videos of the real thing on YuTube eg.

No jumping anywhere... just no breathing! :-(

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Doesn't the 'no breathing' wake the person up? I don't know what I was experiencing if it wasn't sleep apnoea!


I also suffer from sleep apnea and major snoring, it almost came to the point where it was messing up my marriage, I also tried devices from but none of them seemed to work, until I lost 10kg and it helped so much!


Hi Dylansmum, that sounds more like panic attacks to me, I used to suffer with night time panic attacks and they were very frightening.

I do now have sleep apnoea and it is very different.


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