As we all know, going to bed late and getting up early might seem productive in the short term, but is not healthy in the long term. Do you know that the trend of popping an energy drink or guzzling a venti coffee first thing in the morning to deal with the hardships of being perpetually tired can lead to some undesirable health issues? Yes, you heard it right!
You need to keep in mind that cortisol and sleep are closely related. If you are among those suffering from constant fatigue or chronic stress, then you may have elevated or high cortisol levels. Want to know how you can align the physical, emotional, and mental well-being back to the precision point that psychiatrists call vigor? Well, if yes, read on.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol hormone is a steroid that is produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress. Ordinarily, cortisol is highest in the morning, around 8 am, and then gradually lowers throughout the day, especially after exercise, reaching a low around 4 am, or a few hours after the onset of sleep. The problem with the stress-filled, no-sleep lifestyles of many people is that they don’t get a chance to deplete their levels; in other words, the cortisol stays elevated through the night which clearly means that sleep and cortisol are closely related.
Remember that this lack of sleep leads to a cortisol imbalance in the body. With high cortisol levels, the production of testosterone and DHEA are suppressed, the latter two being responsible for many important anti-inflammatory and oxidative functions.
(Since women, however, have less testosterone, a high cortisol-induced drop in their testosterone is normally going to affect women more than men. And for women who want to stay young, lean, energetic, and otherwise active, a healthy level of testosterone is very important. So, we can say that keeping the link between cortisol levels and sleep is even more important for women.)
What Are the Symptoms of High Cortisol?
Now that you know how high cortisol and sleep are interrelated, let’s move further to understand the symptoms. Prolonged high cortisol levels can enact significant physiological changes in both men and women. The symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:
- Exhaustion (reduced physical/mental energy = low vigor)
- Low sex drive
- Decreased muscle mass
- Reduced calorie/fat-burning
- Increased abdominal fat
How to Lower Your Cortisol Levels?
As the name itself suggests, a high cortisol level number simply implies an increase in your cortisol levels. And if you have some or all of the above-mentioned symptoms, you most probably have a cortisol imbalance. But worry not as we are here to make you familiar with the link between cortisol and sleep, and ways to lower your cortisol levels. Reducing cortisol and restoring balance in the body is relatively easy. Use any or all these approaches to help bring your cortisol levels down, and your testosterone up.
What Are the Ways to Treat High Cortisol?
Just like cortisol and sleep, cortisol and exercise also have a complex relationship, as cortisol levels can be affected by both the intensity and duration of physical activity. Remember that virtually all forms of exercise help to reduce cortisol levels. Yes, that’s true! So, find a sport that you enjoy and try to get the blood pumping as much as possible each day.
Cortisol imbalance can be treated with the right diet as well because certain foods and nutrients may affect cortisol levels in the body. You need to keep in mind that fatty or overly sugary, processed foods can affect the adrenal gland in negative ways. So, stick to brightly colored fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and unrefined/whole carbohydrates.
3. Stress Management:
Just like lack of sleep and cortisol, stress and cortisol are also closely related, as cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress. As we all know, stress is a part of life, but how we deal with those stressors at a psychological level will determine our hormonal response, as stress researchers from around the world have determined.
In other words, if you acknowledge stress too much, or with too much intensity, your body will respond in tune with your emotional change. But once you learn to manage stress, it can help in reducing your cortisol levels back to normal.
4. Dietary Supplements:
In addition to, or as part of a balanced diet, certain supplements can be beneficial to maintaining a proper physiological equilibrium. Yes, you heard it right! The Malaysian herb Eurycoma longifolia (Tongkat ali) is a potent option for energy, and among the many other supplements which can be used as a natural method to help safely restore the body’s hormonal and cortisol equilibrium.
We hope that now you understand the correlation between cortisol and sleep schedules. Remember that sometimes an increased cortisol level might be difficult to notice. But if not treated at the right time, it can turn into something even more fatal. So, if you feel like your hormones are out of balance, it is best to talk to a doctor immediately to get some medication.
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