Be Aware Of Your Stressful Thoughts
We all fall into a certain way of thinking and are often not even aware of it. Maybe youre hard on yourself, think of worst-case scenarios, or are easily stressed out by little things.Try to be more aware of your stressful ways of thinking and change those thoughts to be less stress-inducing. Being aware is the first step to working on changing.One strategy to change negative and stressful thoughts is to question them and replace them with positive ones.
For example, if you think that your boss is mad at you, ask yourself things like, What evidence do I have that they are mad at me? If they are mad at me, how can I best approach them to come to a resolution?
So What Exactly Is Cortisol And How Does It Affect Sleep
Now, Im sure youre well aware of what cortisol is its the stress hormone. It does get a bad rap and I don’t want to perpetuate that, because cortisol is actually essential for life and it is very helpful.
Cortisol is meant to help us regulate our blood pressure, metabolize glucose, and keep us alert. Also, its very helpful in stressful situations because when we experience stress, our cortisol levels spike and we are able to respond quickly.
The problem is that, in today’s modern society, we are constantly stressing our bodies so our cortisol levels are through the roof for a prolonged period of time. And because cortisol is a key component to our circadian rhythm, it affects our sleep.
Strategies To Balance Your Cortisol Levels For Sounder Sleep
If youre one of the 70 million Americans that struggle with sleep issues, your hormones may be the last thing on your mind, but they should be. The connection between the hormone cortisol and sleep proves that it could be a powerful player in helping you get better zZzs.
Waking up groggy, crashing mid-afternoon, and having trouble falling asleep? Theyre all possible signs of cortisol imbalance. Cortisol is your bodys primary stress hormone, but it can have a ripple effect on other areas of your life, including sleep.
Youve likely heard about cortisol before in negative contexts, like high-stress situations or its role in stress belly, but there are some benefits of cortisol. When you have the right dose of cortisol at the right time, youll be more energized in the morning, fall asleep easier at night, improve blood sugar balance , and reduce inflammation. As with most things, reaping these benefits is all about learning how to balance cortisol.
Wondering if cortisol could be contributing to your sleep issues? One sign is that they will wake up in the middle of the night feeling wired and have issues falling back to sleep,says Kelly Murray, a certified pediatric and adult sleep consultant and owner of Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting. Also, they may have trouble getting moving in the morning or low energy levels in the afternoon or evening.
Learn more about how to maintain healthy cortisol levels and take advantage of this powerful hormone.
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Tend To Your Spirituality
If you consider yourself spiritual, developing your faith can also help improve cortisol levels.
Studies show that adults who expressed spiritual faith experienced lower cortisol levels in the face of life stressors such as illness (
If you do not consider yourself spiritual, these benefits may also be available through meditation, developing a social support group, and performing acts of kindness .
For those with spiritual inclinations, developing faith and participating in prayer can help manage cortisol. Whether youre spiritual or not, performing acts of kindness can also improve your cortisol levels.
Dont Deprive Yourself Of Foods You Love
Instead of worrying about food that lowers cortisol or massively overhauling your diet to incorporate the best foods for sleep, you may be better off stressing less, says Martin-Biggers. Keeping a healthy balance in your diet to support optimal wellness yet not depriving yourself can help keep stress at bay and manage cortisol levels.
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Set Limits On Work/obligations
This is perhaps the hardest part for many of my own personal clients who are struggling to balance careers, kids, and demanding homelives. As much as we want to do it all, we have real physiologic limits. Humans tend to perceive failure when they are unable to meet expectations.Eventually, this feeling of failure leads to a sense of lack of control and activation of the stress response . Setting personal limits and being somewhat selfish with your time can also help to reduce stress. Make a list of your obligations. Set realistic goals for what you can accomplish. Which of these things are important and which are not worth your time?
Circadian Rhythm And Cortisol
Your sleep-wake cycle follows a circadian rhythm. Every 24 hours, roughly synchronized with nighttime and daytime, your body enters a period of sleep followed by a waking period. The production of cortisol in your body follows a similar circadian rhythm.
Cortisol production drops to its lowest point around midnight. It peaks about an hour after you wake up. For many people, the peak is around 9 a.m.
In addition to the circadian cycle, around 15 to 18 smaller pulses of cortisol are released throughout the day and night. Some of those smaller bursts of cortisol correspond to shifts in your sleep cycles.
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Waking Up And Cortisol The Cortisol Awakening Response
For the majority of people, cortisol levels increase sharply by about 50% within an hour of waking up, peaking about 30 minutes after waking. Some research suggests that the cortisol awakening response is genetically set for each of us.
Some factors can increase cortisol in the morning even more. For example, waking up in the light causes a higher cortisol awakening response than waking up in the darkness as well as waking up earlier than usual. The cortisol response to awakening is higher on a working day than on a day off.
Science is still looking for clear answers to why exactly most of us have the CAR but one suggestion says that it could be a way for our body to prepare us for the expected stress and high demands during the day.
What Causes High Cortisol Levels
There can be various reasons for having high cortisol levels in the body. It could be due to stress, lack of sleep, or certain health conditions. identifying the cause can help treat the problem. Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone because it is released in response to stress.
It is also released when a person is not getting enough sleep. Both of these can lead to high cortisol levels. Certain health conditions can also cause high cortisol levels. These include Cushings syndrome, Addisons disease, and tumors of the adrenal gland.
These conditions are rare, but if they are not treated, they can be lifehreatening. If you think you have high cortisol levels, it is important to see a doctor so that the cause can be identified and treated if necessary.
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Conduct A Relaxing Bedtime Routine On A Nightly Basis
Bedtime routines aren’t just for babies. They can really help us prepare our bodies for sleep and allow us to relax and for those cortisol levels to lower.I love starting a bedtime routine with a bath for both children and adults alike. The reason why is that it’s relaxing, but also it helps to lower your body temperature. . Learn more about how your body temperature affects sleep from Tuck
The Importance Of Sleep
The lack of proper amounts of sleep, and lack of a good diet, are two of the most damaging forms of stress on the body, leading to many health problems. Getting good sleep means getting at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep in order for the brain to reach the deepest levels of electrical activity known as delta waves. Without a nightly recharge of these brain waves, a person awakens feeling like they never went to sleep. Whether the pattern is waking up at 3 AM every night and not being able to go back to sleep, or falling asleep and waking every two or three hours, if the five to six hour limit of sleeping is not reached, brain function cannot be optimal. So, resolving sleep issues is important for this reason alone.
Sleep is also a time when metabolic functions change and slow down. Some of these metabolic changes help regulate appetite. Appetite is controlled by the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Leptin is stored in and released from fat tissue, and it inhibits appetite and increases energy. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is a hormone made in the stomach which increases appetite and lowers energy levels. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes an almost 20 percent decline in leptin and an increase in ghrelin levels of as much as 28 percent. This means that lack of sleep makes people hungrier. Another study showed that less sleep correlated with higher BMI, possibly due to the fact that hungrier people eat more.
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Reduce Cortisol By Monitoring Your Thoughts
One of the most insidious sources of stress is our own mental chatter.
The negative impact of stress is not due to the events in your life as much as it is due to your thoughts your automatic negative reactions and cognitive distortions about these events.
Positive self-talk and thinking can effectively reduce cortisol.
Add Meditation Or Yoga To Your Routine
Because stress directly leads to cortisol production, decreasing stress in your life will help you avoid chronically high cortisol levels, but that can be easier said than done. Focus on activities that facilitate mindfulness, ultimately helping you reduce stress levels. A 2017 study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that individuals who participated in a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat had an increased magnitude of cortisol awakening response. Murray also recommends doing deep breathing exercises when you find yourself in a stressful situation. One study of 28 middle-aged women found that those who participated in deep breathing exercises lowered their cortisol levels by 50 percent, she says.
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Limit Caffeine And Alcohol Consumption
High caffeine and alcohol consumption has been linked to increased cortisol levels, leading to increased risk of health issues, such as anxiety and heart disease. In addition, high caffeine intake has been linked to insomnia and sleep issues, as well as decreased productivity. High alcohol intake has also been shown to increase cortisol levels and increase risk of health issues. Limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake can help to naturally reduce cortisol levels, reduce your risk of health issues, and improve your sleep and productivity.
Natural Ways To Lower Cortisol
In many cases, the brain and adrenal glands can regulate cortisol on their own. When stress has gone away, the body will stop making cortisol and the levels will return to normal.
However, people with chronic stress, certain medical conditions, or who take certain medications can have cortisol levels that are higher than usual. They may want to try some techniques for lowering cortisol, such as:
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What Is Cortisol You Ask
Scientifically speaking, cortisol is a glucocorticoid produced in the adrenal glands located at the top of your kidneys. The hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis regulates your body’s cortisol secretion .
The primary roles of cortisol include:
- Promoting alertness when your body’s fight-or-flight response is activated by a stressor
- Influencing your sleep-wake cycle to help you meet your sleep need
We will go into the specifics in the following sections. All you need to know now is that cortisol has its own circadian rhythm. When your cortisol rhythm is properly functioning, your body produces this stress hormone in the right amounts at the right times. This is beneficial and necessary for your overall health. But too much cortisol over prolonged periods triggers a never-ending cycle of elevated cortisol levels and sleep loss that sets you up for various health problems, as you will see.
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What Happens When Cortisol Is High
Over the last 20 years, studies have increasingly revealed that moderate to high cortisol levels may lead to an array of health issues, such as :
- Chronic disease. Long-term increased cortisol may increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
- Weight gain. Cortisol may increase appetite and signal the body to shift metabolism to store fat.
- Lack of energy/difficulty sleeping. It can interfere with sleep hormones which may impact sleep quality and length.
- Difficulty concentrating. Also referred to as brain fog, some people report trouble focusing and lack of mental clarity.
- Impaired immune system. Increased cortisol can hamper the immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.
- Cushings syndrome. In rare cases, very high cortisol levels can lead to Cushings syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
Elevated cortisol levels can be caused from many underlying issues such as overactivity or cancer of the pituitary or adrenal glands, chronic stress, and medication side effects .
Further, existing chronic disease may lead to higher cortisol levels, causing a chicken or the egg type of scenario .
Therefore, its best to work with a qualified health professional to establish the root cause of your health issues. Along with this, you may want to introduce some effective lifestyle habits that may help you better manage your cortisol levels. Here are some recommendations:
High Cortisol Levels Throughout The Day
Cortisol spikes in response to stressors like work deadlines, environmental pollution, and inadequate sleep. Ongoing high levels of cortisol can be caused by too much coffee, a lack of carbs throughout the day, or an intensive focus on schedules. If cortisol levels stay elevated, youre wired but your adrenals are getting tired. It feels like:
- Youre constantly behind schedule and racing to catch up.
- Youre exhausted and hyper at the same time.
- People comment on how fast you talk.
- Youre easily irritated and feel little enthusiasm for anything.
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What Are The Symptoms Of High Cortisol Levels
If youre experience any of the following symptoms, it may be a sign that your cortisol levels are too high: Weight gain, especially around the midsection and upper back Fatigue Muscle weakness Depression Difficulty concentrating Memory problems Lower libido Increased anxiety Irritability High blood pressure Lightheadedness Abdominal pain Blood sugar imbalances Skin problems, such as bruising or slow healing reduce tissue repair stunt growth.
Tap Into Your Creative Side
In a study, people who made a piece of art had reduced saliva cortisol levels compared to before the art-making. Drawing, making a collage, using modeling clay, or even coloring might all help reduce cortisol levels.
If you know how to sew, make jewelry, or anything else that involves creating, that can have a similar benefit as doing actual art.Do you remember zoning out while coloring when you were little? Coloring books for adults have become popular in recent years since coloring can make you feel relaxed. If anything, coloring gives your brain a distraction from stressful thoughts.
You can buy coloring books specifically for adults that are more complex and require more time to complete, or you can always pick up a regular childrens coloring book.
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How Can You Relieve Stress Naturally
For starters, eating a balanced diet with healthy fats, staying well hydrated by drinking water, limiting caffeine intake, getting regular exercise, and practicing yoga and meditation are good practices for a healthy lifestyle, which can help relieve stress naturally. Sleep also plays an important role aiming for 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep every night is essential to alleviate stress. Certain supplements can also help to lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.
Want To Sleep Better First Reduce Your Cortisol Levels Then Follow These Six Key Tips
Trouble sleeping? Your cortisol levels could be too high. Learn how to control them and get a good nights sleep.
Here in America, statistics indicate that 1 in 8 people have difficulty falling or remaining asleep. Many adults are turning to drugs such as Ambien that have reported side effects like amnesia, sleep walking and unconscious sleep-eating during the night.
Even preschoolers have insomnia. We have learned from the hundreds of parents in our BEDROK group that autistic children also have severe sleep disturbance. Sadly, many parents out of desperation and not knowing any other alternative give their little ones melatonin supplements that were once only recommended for much older adults.
This phenomenon is a significant concern to us here at Body Ecology because deep sleep is one of the most fundamental ways our body heals itself. Ideally while you sleep your body should be busy repairing itself, so Id like to offer you some insight that I feel will help you obtain your much-needed sleep without the negative side effects of drugs or even supplements like melatonin.
To start, its important to explore why we have difficulty sleeping. Over the years Ive learned that the hormone cortisol can play a major role in robbing you of a good nights sleep.
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