Having trouble falling and staying asleep? Waking up and feeling more tired than ever before?
These signs are common adrenal fatigue symptoms.
Adrenal fatigue’s ability to cause different sleep disturbances directly relates to your cortisol levels.
In this article, you’ll discover all you need to know about the topic including:
- Adrenal fatigue and insomnia - how are they connected
- Can high cortisol levels cause insomnia
- How to improve your sleep and relieve adrenal fatigue symptoms
Let’s see how you can get the zzz’s back in your life!
Why Can’t I Sleep?
Many of us occasionally struggle to fall asleep.
Usually, it’s due to external factors such as stress, poor sleeping conditions, traveling, illness, or any other temporary circumstance part of our routine.
But when sleep becomes a regular issue that takes a toll on your mental and physical health, it could be a sign of a more serious sleeping disorder, such as insomnia.
Insomnia makes it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or can cause you to wake up too early in the morning, unable to get back to drowsing. It’s common for adults to experience short-term (or acute) insomnia, as a result of a traumatic event, ongoing stress, substance abuse, or overall poor sleeping habits.
But long-term (or chronic) insomnia, which lasts over a month, could be associated with more serious conditions such as mental health disorders (PTSD, anxiety, and depression), overactive thyroid, diabetes, adrenal fatigue, and more.
Now, these are only a handful of common, possible reasons for insomnia. The only way to properly identify the cause is by seeing a doctor, or by going to a sleep center for special testing.
With this being said, our guide will walk you through the connection between adrenal fatigue and insomnia, what causes it, what are the signs, and how to relieve its symptoms.
Adrenal Fatigue and Insomnia - How Are They Connected?
Symptoms of insomnia like not being able to fall asleep or waking up in the middle of the night can be caused by adrenal fatigue.
When you have adrenal fatigue, your adrenal glands produce an insufficient amount of cortisol.
Usually, your adrenal glands produce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to help you cope with stress.
However, if you deal with stress on a daily basis, your adrenal glands will start producing less and less cortisol over time. In turn, a disruption in your body’s cortisol balance can result in sleep disturbances and other adrenal fatigue symptoms.
The typical adrenal fatigue symptoms include:
- Low blood pressure
- Tiredness during the day
- Hair loss
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Difficulty waking up in the morning
- Dizziness and brain fog
- Weak immunity
- Craving for sugary and salty snacks
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Consuming alcohol might make your adrenal symptoms worse. Read more about the connection between alcohol and adrenal fatigue here!
Can High Cortisol Levels Cause Insomnia?
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands in response to different stressors, Cortisol naturally helps you cope with stress.
When you’re under stress, your adrenal glands pump out more cortisol. In turn, you’re more alert and energetic, ready to deal with stressful situations better.
Cortisol is also regulated by your circadian rhythm. Your cortisol levels naturally increase in the morning hours, helping you wake up easier and prepare for the day.
During the night, they decrease and your body is more relaxed, making it easier to fall asleep.
How Is Cortisol Affected by Adrenal Fatigue?
When you suffer from adrenal fatigue, your cortisol levels do not follow their usual rhythm. Your adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol and you get random cortisol spikes.
If you have elevated cortisol levels during the night, these spikes will make you more alert and awake. In the mornings, your body might not be able to produce enough cortisol. Hence, you’ll feel very tired and have difficulty getting out of bed and doing your regular chores.
Other symptoms of insomnia you might experience are:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Waking up tired in the morning
- Waking up too early
- Feeling tired and sleepy during the day
But there are certain changes you can incorporate into your daily routine for faster adrenal fatigue recovery and better sleep at night.
How to Improve Your Sleep and Relieve Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
#1. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
If you’re feeling tired all the time, it’s completely normal to reach for the occasional cup of coffee or energy drink to keep your productivity up.
But caffeinated drinks might do more harm than good when it comes to your adrenal glands’ health.
When you drink coffee, your adrenal glands become overstimulated and they produce more cortisol. As a result, you feel more energetic and awake.
But once the effect wears off, your cortisol levels drop drastically. Your adrenal glands become more fatigued than they were in the first place.
To avoid such rapid highs and lows in your cortisol levels, try to gradually reduce your caffeine intake and avoid caffeinated drinks after 2 PM.
This way, your body can flush out all the caffeine by nighttime and you can fall asleep more easily at night.
#2. Take Supplements
This herbal supplement can also improve your memory and concentration while reducing inflammation in your body.
Once your cortisol levels are more balanced, you’ll be able to improve your sleep pattern and quality while having more energy during the day.
Take 3 capsules of organic ashwagandha a day.
Maca is also used to increase physical endurance, sex drive, and fertility in both men and women.
This adaptogenic herb for adrenal fatigue can also improve the functioning of your hypothalamus and pituitary gland, directly affecting the production of cortisol.
Take 2 capsules a day after breakfast.
Namastay in Bed
Namastay in Bed is a natural sleep supplement that can help you ease into sleep.
The supplement combines soothing herbs like chamomile, valerian, and passionflower to help you relax before bedtime and ease into blissful sleep without interruptions.
Take 2 capsules before going to bed.
For a more complete list of supplements that help with adrenal fatigue, check out our article.
#3. Get More Sleep
You should get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. However, being wide awake in the late hours might work against getting your regular dose of zzz’s.
High cortisol levels can make you feel energetic right before going to bed, causing you to stay up late.
But if you have to wake up early, you’ll be getting less sleep and wake up more tired than before. This sleep imbalance will lead to long-term tiredness.
To avoid that, try to sleep as much as you can. If you can stay in bed for 1-2 extra hours (even if it’s only on the weekends) your adrenal glands can recover faster and you’ll feel more rested and energized throughout the day.
#4. Establish a Sleep Routine
Try to get to bed and wake up around the same time. You can go to bed before midnight, around 10 - 11 PM, because around midnight your cortisol levels readjust.
Between 12 - 4 AM, your cortisol production is at its lowest level. After that time, it gradually increases and prepares your body to wake up.
If you stay up after midnight, this rhythm is disrupted. Your cortisol levels will be much lower in the morning, making you feel sleepy.
If you feel more alert and energetic at night, you can try to:
- Do something relaxing before bed. You can try reading a book instead of other activities like watching movies or playing games.
- Reduce the time you spend in front of the TV or your phone screen at night. Their bright light interrupts your circadian rhythm and reduces your melatonin levels, making it hard to fall asleep.
- Make your bedroom dark and cool. You can fall asleep easier when your body temperature drops.
Once you establish a regular sleep schedule, your hormones will adjust to it and you’ll be able to fall asleep and wake up more easily.
#5. Avoid Intense Workouts
Working out regularly is beneficial for your health. However, if you experience adrenal fatigue and have trouble falling asleep, you might want to stay away from intense workouts.
Cardio, weight-lifting, and other high-intensity workouts can spike your cortisol levels drastically and interfere with your sleep.
Instead, aim for more relaxing and gentle workouts like:
- Tai Chi
Also, try to plan your workouts at least 4 hours before bedtime so your cortisol levels have the time to adjust. This way you won’t be wide awake during the night.
#6. Try Meditation
Meditation can get you into a more relaxed state of mind and reduce your stress levels.
Apart from that, meditation has many other health benefits like:
- Better emotional balance
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved cognition
- Enhanced self-awareness
You might feel distracted by your thoughts and find it difficult to stay concentrated during meditation, but don’t let it discourage you.
If you find your thoughts wandering off, just focus on your breath. If you practice meditation even for as little as 5 minutes a day, you’ll start feeling more relaxed during the day. This might help you fall asleep more easily at night.
#7. Pay Attention to Your Diet
Adrenal fatigue and your sleep are greatly affected by your diet. There are many foods that prevent sleep, but it’s also bad if you go to bed hungry.
Hunger might be the cause of you waking up in the middle of the night. In such instances, have a light snack that’s rich in protein and healthy fats.
For example, a whole grain cracker or a slice of bread with some avocado or salmon will keep your blood sugar levels steady and prevent you from waking up in the night.
Also, try to include nutritious foods in your diet like:
- Leafy greens: kale, spinach, chard, arugula, collard greens
- Seeds: pumpkin, sesame, and hemp seeds
- Nuts: almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts
- Lean meats: organic poultry, beef, and pork
- Healthy fats: avocado, olive oil, fatty fish
- Whole grains: oatmeal, bulgur, brown rice, whole-wheat flour
Try to minimize your consumption of:
- Refined grains: pizza, pasta, white bread, white rice
- Sugary snacks: pastries, sugary drinks, candies
- Processed foods: cheese, microwave meals, tinned vegetables
- Fast food: hamburgers, french fries, sandwiches, chicken nuggets
For a more complete list of foods to eat if you have adrenal fatigue, check out our guide to adrenal fatigue diet.
#8. Take Care of Yourself
Make some time in your weekly schedule only for yourself and your favorite activities. This will help you tune out the everyday noise for a little bit and give you some space and time to relax.
In your free time, try to do what feels best for you. Is it painting, reading, or perhaps cooking? Whatever it is, just go for it and enjoy it!
This way, you’ll get the chance to unwind, clear your mind, and feel more relaxed and energized!
#9. Spend Time Outside
Spending time outside, especially in the mornings can help readjust your cortisol levels. Getting a bit of sunlight in the early hours will help you wake up more easily and you’ll feel more energized.
Also, spending time in nature can reduce your stress levels. So, it’s a good idea to explore the great outdoors from time to time. You can even plan some small trips over the weekend to release the accumulated tension from your busy week.
#10. Reduce Stress
With a busy schedule, work, and all the small chores you have to complete, it’s probably impossible to eliminate all your stress factors.
However, you can try to reduce everyday stress by:
- Asking for help. If you’re overwhelmed with work and errands, you can ask a relative or a friend to help you with some chores. This way, you’ll eliminate some stress and free up more time for yourself.
- Eliminating activities that you can easily skip. Are you signed up for a class you don’t enjoy? Or maybe you promised a friend you’ll visit an event with them? If you feel exhausted and you can cancel, you’ll be able to catch up on the more urgent things and maybe even get some time for yourself.
- Practicing self-care. You can reduce stress by taking some time for some self-care activities like getting a massage, going to the spa, or just taking a nice warm bath. These activities can significantly reduce your stress levels.
Adrenal fatigue can make you feel weak and lethargic as it disrupts your normal sleep pattern. To get back to a normal sleeping routine, you need to normalize your cortisol levels.
You can do that by adjusting your sleep routine, getting more rest, and following a nutritious diet plan.
This way, you can improve your adrenal glands’ health and feel more rested and energized.
Stay healthy and strong!