Today I will continue to look at insomnia and possible ways to correct the body’s circadian rhythm by focusing on balancing cortisol levels.
As you know our circadian rhythms are responsible for our sleep and wake cycles. Cortisol is responsible for the waking part of our circadian rhythm. Normal cortisol levels decrease during the day becoming lowest between 10:00 pm and 11:00pm. Then cortisol levels slowly rise during the night to wake you out of sleep. The hormone cortisol is also responsible for many other functions in the body besides sleep. Cortisol is most commonly known as a response to acute or chronic stress - mental emotional or physical. Cortisol is used to increase blood pressure, increase blood sugar, or suppress the immune response. Cortisol influences your electrolyte balance, your trace mineral balance, it impacts bone health and water retention and release. As a result of cortisol being responsible for so many functions it is easy to cortisol to become imbalanced. The imbalance of cortisol then can impact your sleep.
In my practice I have started to recommend saliva testing to check the patients hormonal levels and their neurotransmitter levels before creating a treatment plan for the patients. If I find that the cortisol levels are imbalanced I create a two-part treatment plan. The first part of the treatment plan requires nutritional supplement to balance the cortisol levels enough to restore the circadian rhythm and the cortisol levels. The second part of the plan is to treat the underlying cause that created the cortisol imbalance in the first place. Some of the most common cortisol imbalances are derived from patient’s inability to appropriately manage mental or emotional stress, skipping meals or blood sugar imbalances, or cortisol-based medication. In this fast paced society it is easy to get “stressed out” about anything from traffic to work deadlines. When we skip meals or eat highly processed meals our body releases cortisol to compensate for the lack or appropriate nutrition.