Cortisol and the Circadian rhythm in a “normal” person:
Our internal body clock which is also called the circadian rhythm regulates the timing of periods of being awake throughout the day and heading to sleepiness towards the night.
The circadian rhythm has moments of highs and lows like a wave. The potent sleep waves occur at different times of the day, between 2:00-4:00 am and in the early morning.
There is also a peak at 1:00-3:00 pm in the afternoon although everyone is different.
For those of us who have had the luck of having sufficient sleep, the lows of the sleep waves are not so intense, However if we are sleep deprived those dips in the sleep wave can be quite intense think of 3:30itis. This is when many of us reach for a coffee or a sweet snack to have a pick me up.
Regardless of when you woke up if you are on a “normal sleep cycle” you will have highs at certain times during the day when you feel awake. Note that I mentioned “normal” which some of us vary from.
Morning is when your cortisol which is an adrenal hormone is in it’s peak. Cortisol increases body temperature to prepare the body for waking usually when exposed to light.
Melatonin is another hormone responsible for sleep onset, Melatonin levels are low in the morning and are rise at night to increase slumber melatonin levels should stay elevated all night.
When sleep isn’t happening there can be a few reasons why which we can treat naturally.
Energy requirements for sleep:
Our body needs fuel when we sleep- while we sleep we are also fasting. The liver depletes its glycogen stores or blood sugar/glucose as this is the brains primary energy source.
The liver synthesizes or creates glucose which converts to energy while we sleep. So eating 2hours to 1 hour before heading to bed may prolong sleep duration. This is often not recommended for weight loss but in some cases it is a needed option. This may be a valid option if you wake in the middle of the night starving and you naturally have a fast metabolism.
Cortisol, Anxiety and Stress
When we have had a period of high stress in our lives high cortisol levels are likely to occur. When there is a prolonged period of high stress it can cause damage to the adrenal glands,
The adrenal glands pump out high levels of adrenal hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) for months or years, they start to wear out, eventually the adrenals partially or totally collapse.
If the stressful conditions do not stop, this can cause very low cortisol levels as their adrenal glands stop making significant levels of cortisol. When you are chronically stressed or anxious this chain of events is continuously triggered, your cortisol stays elevated, you become depleted of the hormones you need to battle the stressor and you go into adrenal burnout which causes constant fatigue.
Reverse or Inverted Cortisol Rhythm
When this natural circadian rhythm or “diurnal” cycle is disrupted, we can end up with insomnia and sleep problems. Cortisol also increases body temperature when it is preparing to wake the body up.
If our rhythm/wave/cycle is out our cortisol can rise at the wrong time of day say 2am in the morning when you are trying to sleep and it drops off at about 10am 12pm for most people this is when they are at work or trying to get on with their day but their cortisol has risen at the wrong time making sleep impossible at night and robbing you of your concentration during the day.
How can we reverse this?
There are things that you can do to increase your cortisol in the morning,
Getting sunlight on your face in the morning or doing some exercise which will spike your adrenal hormones, the exercise needs to get your heart rate up to stimulate your adrenal glands.
Natural tea’s and supplements to support your energy production adrenal hormones and help you get to sleep.
If you need some help getting to sleep and would like some help consider our wellness package.
This package is for those who are not feeling right and need some help finding the cause of their complaint, so they can get back to their ideal health balance.
Or call 0412241198 for a free 10min appointment to see if we are right for you.