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An At Home sleep test helps you determine if cortisol is unbalanced and if it might be causing you sleep disturbances.
Can Cortisol Cause Sleep Problems?
Cortisol is a hormone in the body. Too much or too little of it causes a variety of problems.
Some call cortisol the body’s alarm system. It spikes when you are facing a stressful situation and fuels your so-called fight or flight response. It’s produced by the adrenal glands and plays a role in mood, motivation, and fear.
Cortisol affects many things in the body. If your cortisol levels are out of balance, you could experience problems with your digestive or reproductive systems. It also affects your immune system.
Additionally, you might experience insomnia and other sleep issues if your cortisol level is too high. People with elevated cortisol levels experienced restless and fragmented sleep. They also get less sleep overall. People diagnosed with insomnia tend to have higher cortisol levels than other people.
People with sleep apnea also have elevated cortisol levels. However, scientists are not sure if cortisol directly contributes to sleep apnea or if the conditions for sleep apnea are also causing higher cortisol levels. Obesity is a good example of this. It increases cortisol levels and puts someone at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
Depression and anxiety are also associated with higher cortisol levels and sleep disturbances.
There is also evidence that the relationship between sleep and cortisol goes both ways. Poor sleep interferes with cortisol levels. Sleep deprivation causes cortisol to spike. This creates an ongoing cycle of problems between sleep and cortisol. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why this is the case and are continually learning more about the relationship between cortisol and sleep.
Researchers believe cortisol is both a cause and a consequence of poor sleep.
How Can I Naturally Restore My Cortisol Levels?
There are several things you can do to improve your cortisol levels to normal. Many of these are natural and require no intervention from a doctor. If you are struggling to get good sleep, it helps to try one or more of these things.
Natural ways to restore cortisol levels include:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and night, preferably based on the time the sun sets and rises
- Spending time outside in the sun
- Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption
- Avoid sugar and processed foods
- Limit caffeine and only drink it several hours before going to bed
- Exercise but do so several hours before bedtime
- Consider booking a monthly massage or practicing self-massage and stretching at home
- Practice meditation or engage in soothing self-care activities
- Create a consistent bedtime routine that helps you sleep
- Consider supplementing your diet with vitamins
Speak to your doctor and consider undergoing an assessment to determine if you are deficient in any vitamins before adding them to your diet.
Does Turmeric Lower Cortisol?
There is evidence that turmeric or curcumin lowers cortisol levels. Turmeric is a spice that you can add to food or take as a supplement.
Many people swear by drinking Golden Milk, which is a blend of turmeric, warm milk, and other spices including ginger or cinnamon at bedtime. It’s commonly consumed by Ayurvedic practitioners. In addition to potentially improving cortisol levels and helping with sleep, Golden Milk might also:
- Increases antioxidant intake
- Helps with inflammation and joint pain
- Improves memory and brain function
- Improves mood
- Reduces risk of heart disease
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Reduces cancer risk
- Improves digestion (when combined with ginger)
- Provides antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties
Many of these benefits are specifically linked to the turmeric in Golden Milk.
Is There a Home Test for Cortisol Levels?
Yes. Many cortisol tests can be done at home and you need to submit only saliva or urine to evaluate your cortisol levels. A cortisol urine test helps your doctor determine how your cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day.
To undergo a cortisol urine test, you’ll:
- Empty your bladder when you wake up and record what time it is. You’ll discard this urine.
- For the next 24 hours, collect your urine in the container provided by your doctor in the refrigerator or a cooler.
- Return the sample container to your doctor for testing.
To undergo a cortisol saliva test, you’ll:
- Avoid brushing your teeth, eating, or drinking for at least 15 to 30 minutes before taking the test.
- Collect a sample of your saliva between 11 pm and midnight using a swab provided by your doctor. To do this, you’ll roll the swab in your mouth for a minute or two.
- Place the sample into the container you were provided and return it to your doctor.
In addition to tests provided by your doctor, there are also cortisol tests you can take on your own. At home tests utilize saliva samples and provide you with basic information about your cortisol levels. It’s a good idea to discuss your results with a medical professional, especially if you intend to make changes to adjust your cortisol levels.
The Ultimate Guide to At-Home Hormone Testing: What you need to know.
“The Connection Between Cortisol and Sleep Disorders.” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/202004/the-connection-between-cortisol-and-sleep-disorders
“Balance Your Cortisol (Stress) Levels Naturally.” www.Aurorahealthcare.org, www.aurorahealthcare.org/patients-visitors/blog/7-ways-to-balance-your-cortisol-stress-levels-naturally. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.