The cortisol and sleep connection

It is no secret that increased stress has a negative effect upon sleep. This is due to the hormone cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenal glands. Our bodies have evolved to produce elevated cortisol in response to stress so that we may more easily outrun a predator, or in other words, as a reponse to fight or flight.

In our current modern lifestyle, however, we tend to have the more chronic stresses of day- to-day life rather than short bursts of acute stress. These stresses we suffer from today tend to be more social and psychological in nature rather than needing to escape physical danger.

Chronic stress and cortisol

Chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which increase our blood sugar levels, cause us to want to eat more carbs, and interfere with our sleep. Here are few tips to help lower our cortisol levels ,which in turn will improve sleep.

  1. Exercise – regular moderate exercise helps the body to burn off cortisol and also releases endorphins, your body’s natural opiate, which improves mood and sleep and controls and regulates hunger. People who exercise too much can increase chronic stress and inflammation in their body, which can also interfere with sleep. People who exercise too little do not receive the benefits of the improvement in mood or the physical conditioning. Getting a moderate amount of exercise to burn off tensions and improve mood will also help you to sleep deeper too!
  1. Stress management – deep relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation, or receiving a massage as well as exercise will help trigger your body’s parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and this will help you rest and restore as well as sleep more deeply.
  1. Nutrition – Blood sugar levels also impact our ability to sleep deeply and well. When your diet contains too many refined sugars and carbs, it can do a number on your blood sugar. Blood sugar highs and lows can interrupt the sleep cycle because your body is going into a massive craving when it has a sugar crash. Making sure that you consume adequate amounts of lean clean organic proteins as well as lots of fruits and vegetables will boost your nutrition which in turn helps deepen sleep when one is well nourished.
  1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine – alcohol is processed in the body in much the same way as sugar is. So again, if you drink before bed, it could spike and crash your blood sugar during the night, which could cause you to awaken during the night anxious, dehydrated and hungry. Caffeine also spikes and crashes blood sugar levels since it causes your body to use up glucose faster so that you end up craving more carbohydrates. The cleaner you live and eat, the better you will sleep.
  1. Avoid the nightly news right before bed – bad news of the world will increase your stress levels and this is a very terrible idea right before you head to bed. The news will still be there in the morning and you can better face a changing world after a great night’s sleep!

Stress and sleep are intertwined. Once you correct imbalances of blood sugar and cortisol, you will rest more deeply and efficiently! Sweet Dreams!