Studies have shown that those with hyperparathyroidism may experience insomnia, which may stem from the high levels of calcium in the blood.

Hyperparathyroidism is a disorder where one or more parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone (PTH).

The parathyroid glands are four tiny glands in the neck near the thyroid gland. Their main purpose is to regulate calcium levels in the body by secreting PTH, and other hormones, such as calcitonin.

In hyperparathyroidism, increased PTH leads to an increase in blood calcium levels. This can cause symptoms, including bone pain, body aches, fatigue, and kidney stones.

In addition to these common physical symptoms, some people may also experience insomnia. Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep.

This article examines the link between hyperparathyroidism and insomnia. It also covers treatments for both conditions.

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Hyperparathyroidism can cause many symptoms, including insomnia. The prevalence of sleep impairment in people with primary hyperparathyroidism is up to 6 in 10 cases, with 1 in 4 meeting the criteria for clinical insomnia. The number of people with hyperparathyroidism and clinical insomnia is more than four times that of the general population.

Following surgery to remove the parathyroid glands, people report a significant reduction in sleep disturbances, and insomnia resolves in 7 in 10 cases.

High calcium levels

Insomnia due to hyperparathyroidism may stem from the effects of high calcium levels in the body.

Calcium helps nerve cells to conduct electricity, and when levels are too high, it upsets the delicate balance, and nerves cannot communicate efficiently. A person may then experience symptoms such as fatigue and sleep disturbances.

Furthermore, hyperparathyroidism can lead to muscle spasms, joint pain, and restless leg syndrome, a movement condition that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. These symptoms can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep.

Learn more about the effects of high calcium levels in the body here.

A person with hyperparathyroidism may not have any symptoms until the later stages of the condition. However, some people may experience the following:

Learn more about hyperparathyroidism here.

Treatment for insomnia may involve a combination of medications and therapy. People must also take steps to improve their sleeping habits, known as sleep hygiene.

Useful therapies include:

  • Sleep restriction therapy: This helps to regulate or reduce the amount of time a person spends in bed. It aims to improve sleep quality by avoiding prolonged wakefulness periods at night.
  • Relaxation therapy: Regular breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga can help reduce anxiety and stress and may improve sleeping patterns.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi): CBTi can help people fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. Therapy involves identifying behaviors or thought patterns contributing to insomnia and replacing them with more helpful ones.

Doctors may also recommend medications to improve sleep. Some medications that may be useful include:

  • Benzodiazepines: These psychoactive drugs are powerful sedatives. However, doctors typically prescribe them for short-term use only as they are habit-forming.
  • Non-benzodiazepines: These medications have fewer side effects than benzodiazepines but a similar sedative effect.
  • Melatonin agonists: These drugs may help reset the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle by mimicking the effects of natural melatonin — the sleep hormone.
  • Orexin receptor antagonist: Orexins are neurotransmitters that regulate sleepiness and wakefulness. Orexin receptor antagonists block these neurotransmitters, helping people fall asleep more easily.

Learn more about insomnia here.

Treatment for hyperparathyroidism depends on the underlying cause. Doctors may recommend surgery if someone has growths on their parathyroid glands or if the glands are overactive. Symptoms typically resolve within a month of surgery.

Medication can be the best treatment option if someone has only minor or no symptoms. These may include:

  • Calcimimetics: Cinacalcet (Sensipar) mimics circulating calcium, tricking the parathyroid glands into releasing less parathyroid hormone.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): HRT may help reduce bone calcium loss for postmenopausal people with osteoporosis. However, it does not address the underlying issue with the parathyroid glands.
  • Bisphosphonates: These medications also slow or prevent bone calcium loss and may lessen osteoporosis symptoms. But again, these medications do not address the underlying issues.

Sleep hygiene refers to habits that help improve sleep quality. It is important to practice good sleep hygiene if hyperparathyroidism is causing insomnia. Some tips include:

  • go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • make the bedroom conducive to sleep, meaning dark, quiet, cool, and calm
  • eat early in the evening
  • avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
  • be physically active during the day
  • limit daytime napping
  • avoid looking at electronic screens before going to bed

Learn more about sleep hygiene here.

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition that results from overactive parathyroid glands. It causes an increase in blood calcium levels, among other symptoms. It can also cause sleeping issues and insomnia.

Treatment for hyperparathyroidism may involve surgery to remove the parathyroid glands or medications. A person should also practice good sleep hygiene to improve their sleeping habits if insomnia is an issue.

Doctors may also recommend relaxation therapy, CBT, or medications to help reset the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.