If Youre Having Trouble Sleeping Or Managing Your Stress And Think That It Could Be Affecting You Physically This Is The Perfect Test For You
Many times, stress from our demanding modern lifestyles have significant impact on our sleep schedules, which can turn into a vicious self-sustaining cycle. In some instances, it takes objective data to show you or someone close to you that there are risks associated with elevated stress and lack of sleep. Reducing stress and increasing sleep can improve your quality of life, eliminate numerous negative symptoms and reduce the likelihood of long-term health risks.
More than 60 million Americans suffer from some degree of sleep deprivation or insomnia, and over 70% of us feel we suffer from too much stress. High stress and poor sleep are considered major obstacles to feeling well and performing at our best and may be risk factors for many other disease, like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
The Role Of The Cortisol Hormone
The job description of the cortisol hormone is vast and varied. Its responsible for helping to control blood sugar levels and motivating you to move, for example. And, although cortisol is seen as the bad stress hormone, this isnt the complete story.
If we didnt have cortisol we wouldnt be able to survive, says Dr Andrea on Wellness Women Radio, How Stress Makes Us Fat. Cortisol is what gets you up in the morning, what flips your body into fight mode when it thinks youre in danger and is key for metabolic processes.
However, as cortisol is pretty much your bodys built-in internal alarm system, it should rise and fall as needed. But, tech, tetchy people at work and endless rushing can mean the alarm button is triggered far too often.
Understanding The Causes Of Stress
Weekly, I balance this brilliant but busy day job with a plethora of extra-curricular activities: my @wellness_ed side hustle monthly talks and fitness festivals oh, and some semblance of a social life.
Most days this is how it goes:
- 5.40am SAD alarm starts to light my bedroom
- 5.51am jump out of bed
- 5.52am pull on Lycra, brush teeth, wash face
- 6.01am make protein coffee
- 8.01am check emails
- 8.45am get to work
You get the gist and Im sure you recognise the feeling of rushing from one activity to the next, often beginning the next task before youve finished the last. For me, replying to emails with one hand, while using the other to blast dry my hair is the norm. You, too?
However, spinning this many plates is nothing to be proud of where your health is concerned as I came to learn.
On the advice of nutritional therapist Eve Kalinin , who I visited complaining of gas, stomach cramps and general gut woes, I booked a cortisol test.
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Are There Any Risks To Taking An At
At-home cortisol testing generally comes with few risks. If the test uses a blood sample, there is the possibility of bruising or bleeding. These tests are generally very accurate, but there is the chance that you may receive inaccurate results due to the sample collection process or shipping.
Remember, this type of testing isnt a substitute for a visit with your primary care doctor.
What Is Cortisols Role In The Body
One of cortisolÃ¢s main functions is regulating your bodyÃ¢s response to stressÃ¢hence, its nickname of the Ã¢stress hormone.Ã¢
When you experience stress, your adrenal glands release cortisol into your body which temporarily increases your blood sugar for a boost of energy and curbs nonessential functions. This process helps you perform better in stressful situations, such as when you are in danger.
When your body experiences a cortisol imbalance, the amount of cortisol produced in response to any kind of stress can impact important functions in your body as a result of too much or too little cortisol being secreted. Cortisol secretion is mainly controlled by three inter-communicating regions of the body the hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland.
In addition to managing your stress response, cortisol also helps your body regulate a number of other key functions linked to your health.
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When To Speak With A Doctor
A person should undergo a cortisol test if they believe they may have high or low cortisol levels.
They can do this at home or speak with a medical professional who can carry out the test for them.
People may also wish to seek medical help if they show signs of too much or too little cortisol. This could indicate a potentially serious underlying health issue.
Below are answers to common questions about at-home cortisol tests.
How Is Cortisol Measured
Wondering how to test cortisol levels? First off, itâs helpful to know that urine, saliva, and blood are all widely used for measuring cortisol.
Cortisol urine test The kidneys filter cortisol out of your bloodstream and into urine, making it possible to test cortisol levels with urine samples. This kind of test measures free cortisolâ âor cortisol that isnât attached to proteins. For that reason, this type of test is also known as a urinary-free cortisol test. The Everlywell at-home Sleep and Stress Test is urinary free cortisol test.
Because itâs easy to collect urine samples at different times throughout the day, urinary free cortisol tests are useful for checking how your cortisol levels change over a 24-hour period, which can help provide insight into sleep problems, stressors, and more.
In addition, urinary free cortisol tests are often used for disease monitoring in patients with Cushings syndromeâ âa condition in which the adrenal gland makes too much cortisol.
Cortisol saliva test Saliva measures cortisol because cortisol circulating in the bloodstream can enter saliva through a biochemical process called diffusion. Cortisol saliva tests measure the bodyâs amount of free cortisol. Late-night salivary cortisolâ âmeasurement of cortisol in a saliva sample collected late at night, often around midnightâ âis a reliable way to screen for Cushingâs syndrome.
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Should You Test Your Cortisol
In many cases, yes, you should have your cortisol levels checked. According to Holweger, cortisol levels are most often tested when there has been a disruption in the circadian rhythm. Testing can also be done to check whether or not a patient has a tumor on the pituitary gland or any adrenal cancers.
If you’re feeling hyperactive, it may mean that your stress levels are affecting your brain function. Additionally, if you have a history of heart disease or suffer from chronic pain, you should check to see if your cortisol levels are normal. Boyer adds that if you have been feeling stressed out, are having difficulty sleeping, or are experiencing lower energy than usual, you should test your cortisol levels.
Normal cortisol levels are based on the time of day. Cortisol levels peak in the early morning and gradually decrease throughout the day, reaching their lowest point in the middle of the night. Because of this, when high cortisol levels or Cushing syndrome are suspected, cortisol levels are usually measured at night. If low cortisol levels or Addison’s disease are suspected, cortisol levels are often measured early in the morning, as that is when cortisol levels should be naturally high.
Everyone’s baseline cortisol levels are different, but Cleveland Clinic defines normal cortisol levels as:
- Morning: 10 to 20 micrograms per deciliter .
- Afternoon: 3 to 10 mcg/dL.
Who Should Take The Cortisol Blood Test
Check if your body is under stress or over-training using a home finger-prick blood test kit.
You get the convenience of home testing with the reassurance of professional clinical analysis. Your results are delivered quickly & securely online.
This Cortisol Test is advised if you:
- have a low sex drive & loss of libido
- feel tired all the time with low energy
- have Addison’s disease
Take a complete health check-up with Vitall.
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When Should A Cortisol Test Be Performed
Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day. Levels peak about 30 minutes after you wake in the morning, and they gradually decrease. Cortisol levels hit their lowest point around midnight. When high cortisol levels or Cushing syndrome are suspected, cortisol levels are usually measured at night. If low cortisol levels or Addison’s disease are suspected, cortisol levels are often measured early in the morning, as that is when cortisol levels should be naturally high.
What Does It Mean If You Have A High Cortisol Test Reading
High cortisol levels can point to a number of factors that you might be up against.
The most obvious reason is that you are experiencing too much stress. Consistent stress increases cortisol levels. This is due to the bodys constant readiness for a flight or fight response1.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, but the levels are controlled by another hormone called Adrenocorticotropic hormone . This hormone is made in the pituitary gland. So if either of the glands develops any tumors, whether cancerous or not, the levels of cortisol could increase1.
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How Does My Body Control Cortisol Levels
Your body has an elaborate system to regulate your cortisol levels.
Your hypothalamus, a small area of your brain involved in hormonal regulation, and your pituitary gland, a tiny gland located below your brain, regulate the production of cortisol in your adrenal glands. When the levels of cortisol in your blood fall, your hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone , which directs your pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone . ACTH then stimulates your adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol.
In order to have optimal levels of cortisol in your body, your hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands must all be functioning properly.
How Is This Cortisol Urine Test Different From A Cortisol Saliva Test
The Everlywell Sleep & Stress Test uses urine samplesÃ¢ Ã¢instead of salivaÃ¢ Ã¢for measuring cortisol levels. Urine samples are easy to collect, so this cortisol test is a convenient way to measure your cortisol levels at different times of the day. By taking this at-home lab test, you may be able to learn if you have unusually high or low cortisol levels.
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Cortisol Levels Through The Day
Cortisol is a stress hormone. You can test your cortisol levels through the day by looking at your saliva. Its a simple process, and you dont need a fancy kit. For the first test, wash your mouth out with water and spit into a cup. If you dont have access to a sink, you can fill a cup with the saliva from your cheek. Take a mouth swab, which you can buy at a pharmacy. If you dont want to use your own saliva, there are now kits that you can buy at drug stores. Then, leave the saliva in the cup at room temperature for a few hours. You want to do this during the morning, because youre most likely to be stressed during the day. After a few hours, you can send the saliva sample to a lab. They will run the test on the saliva and tell you how much cortisol is present. Based on this, you can figure out whether youre stressed or not. You can use the test on a regular basis, so you can know whether youre stressed in specific situations.
When To Test Cortisol Levels
Doctors recommend cortisol testing for the following circumstances:
- Health conditions affecting the hypothalamus, adrenal, and pituitary glands, like tumors and masses
- People with signs and symptoms of endocrine problems
- Monitoring the cortisol levels of people on steroid medications
For example, doctors may initiate cortisol tests for a young adult with hypertension. Its because your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases increases when you have an excess of cortisol.3
Your doctor may order a cortisol test if you show one or more signs of high cortisol levels. The symptoms include:
- Sudden weight gain
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
You can also experience health problems from too little cortisol. In emergency cases, your doctor will ask for a cortisol test if they suspect that your symptoms are due to an acute adrenal crisis.
Other causes of insufficient cortisol are Addisons disease, abrupt discontinuation of steroid medications, removal of the adrenal or pituitary gland, or loss of blood supply to the adrenals.
Adrenal crises occur when your body has insufficient cortisol levels. It is life-threatening and must be treated immediately.4
Adrenal crisis causes a shutdown of almost all organ systems.
The signs of low cortisol levels include:
- Persistent fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in the abdomen
This is why doctors check more common health problems like thyroid conditions first before ordering a cortisol test.
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Where Should I Get A Hormone Balance Test
Hormone balance tests can be performed in a variety of settings. Many people first get their hormones tested by their primary care doctor or gynecologist. Others prefer to go straight to a lab facility. While both of these methods can garner accurate results, we recommend getting your hormones tested by a hormone health specialist. These practitioners will have the training and experience necessary to determine which tests are right for you and are experts at both interpreting your results and providing treatment.
Get The Right Amount Of Sleep
Prioritizing your sleep may be an effective way to reduce cortisol levels. Chronic sleep issues such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, or shift work have been associated with higher cortisol .
One review of 28 studies in shift workers found that cortisol levels were higher in workers who slept during the day rather than at night .
Those on rotating shifts have been linked with poorer health outcomes, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and worsened mental health (
Practicing good sleep hygiene can help to keep cortisol in a normal rhythm. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine 6 hours before bed, and staying off your cell phone right before bed are effective strategies.
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What Do Low Cortisol Levels Mean
Low cortisol levels resulting from your cortisol home test could mean that you have a problem either with your pituitary gland being underactive and not producing enough ACTH, or your adrenal glands not producing enough cortisol .
An ACTH stimulation can be done to see if the problem is based in the pituitary or adrenal glands. If you respond to an ACTH stimulation test, your pituitary gland is most likely the issue. It is important to note that Addisons disease is extremely rare, so if you present symptoms of Addisons, your doctor might want to carry out more tests to identify the root problem as it could be caused by something else. For example, people with low cortisol levels that do not respond to ACTH stimulation tests, could have a condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia .
Furthermore, people with hypothyroidism can experience low cortisol levels. You may wish to take a thyroid home test if this is the case .
If in the rare event you are diagnosed with Addisons disease, you might also experience symptoms on a psychological level, such as depression and sleep disturbances. Leaving Addisons disease untreated can lead to very serious side effects and a state of crisis known as the Addisonian crisis. The typical symptoms of an Addisonian crisis are hallucinations, delirium, and irritability.
What Happens If Your Body Doesnt Produce Cortisol
Low levels of cortisol can cause weakness, fatigue, and low blood pressure. You may have more symptoms if you have untreated Addisons disease or damaged adrenal glands due to severe stress, such as from a car accident or an infection. These symptoms include sudden dizziness, vomiting, and even loss of consciousness.
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What Do The Results Mean
A cortisol test alone cant diagnose the cause of abnormal cortisol levels. If your cortisol level isnt normal, you will usually have more tests to find out what is causing the problem.
High levels of cortisol may be a sign that you have Cushings syndrome. It may be caused by:
- Taking high doses of certain steroid medicines for a long time to treat conditions, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus
- Tumors in your pituitary gland or other parts of your body that make too much of the hormone that tells your adrenal glands to make cortisol
- Tumors in your adrenal glands that make extra cortisol
Low levels of cortisol may mean you have Addison disease or secondary adrenal insufficiency:
- Common causes of Addisons disease include damage to the adrenal glands from conditions, such as:
- Certain infections, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS
The most common cause of low cortisol levels is suddenly stopping steroid medicines after using them for a long time.
If your cortisol results arent normal, it doesnt always mean you have a medical condition that needs treatment. Cortisol levels can be affected by:
- Certain medicines, such as birth control pills
To learn what your test results mean, talk with your health care provider.
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How To Test Cortisol Level
Stress levels have been rising at an alarming rate recently. Everyone is feeling the pressure and its becoming more difficult to deal with it. There is no one reason for this trend, but one main thing that is driving stress are how technology is changing our lives. We are constantly being distracted by our phones, tablets, and even video games. All of this stress is being dumped into our brains and wreaking havoc. So, how can we help calm our stress?
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