If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping deeply enough that you feel rested, this post is for you! You also may want to consider that to some degree your adrenals are fatigued. Adrenal fatigue is an unfortunate, yet rampant epidemic in our current society. It is something I myself have recovered from (read my story here), therefore it is my passion to help others identify it in their own lives and get on the path to recovery as well. (cover photo credit)
Briefly, let’s review what adrenal fatigue is. First of all your adrenals are two tiny glands that sit atop your kidneys, no larger than a walnut.The hormones secreted by your adrenals influence all of the major physiological processes in your body. They closely affect the utilization of carbohydrates and fats, the conversion of fats and proteins into energy, the distribution of stored fat (especially around your waist and at the sides of your face), normal blood sugar regulation, and proper cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function. The protective activity of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant hormones secreted by the adrenals helps to minimize negative and allergic reactions to alcohol, drugs, foods and environmental allergens.
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a “syndrome”. It is a deficiency in the functioning of the adrenal glands, our stress glands. It can be very hard to identify and likely your doctor won’t diagnose it. People with adrenal fatigue live with a general sense of un-wellness and a level of depression, lack of joy. Abnormal blood sugar levels, typically in the form of hypoglycemia are frequently seen in adrenal fatigue cases. This is becoming more common anymore due to the over consumption of refined carbs, sugars and even stimulants such as coffee and soda in our nation. What happens is the normally functioning adrenal glands overproduce due to stress, either physical from exertion or poor diet, or emotional and psychological due to life circumstances such as unhealthy relationships or environments. When too much output lasts too long the adrenals get depleted and then can no longer function properly causing a decrease in the adrenal hormones, particularly cortisol. The range of adrenal fatigue can be low to very severe. On the severe end it can be life threatening.
If you know by now, that you have some level of adrenal fatigue, or you’d like to prevent getting it altogether, there are plenty of things you can do to keep those little glands healthy. The most important priority, in my opinion, is to get adequate sleep. How many of us in this day and age, do not get adequate sleep? I personally, don’t know too many people who do. Yet, in order to experience optimal health across the board, sleep is essential. If you want to experience full recovery of your adrenals sleep should be the first area you work on. The challenge with that is that sleeplessness is one of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. So, how do you combat this conundrum?
When & How Much Sleep
First off, it is important to consider your body has a certain rhythm, this is called the circadian rhythm. Our most rejuvenating sleep should be before the hour of midnight. Getting to bed several hours before then is crucial as growth hormone is at it’s greatest levels an hour or two after you fall asleep. Too many people nowadays push themselves until the wee hours of night and into the morning. Just think about how, long ago before the modern invention of electricity, we had no choice but to go to bed with the sun and rise with the sun. This is nature’s way. Our cortisol levels are lowest at night, we need to honor that and not push ourselves by working or doing any stimulating activities. By all means get to bed BEFORE 10:30, so that you are on your way to falling asleep by then. Avoid staying up any later than that or your adrenals will have to kick into overdrive, giving you a second wind. This often hits at 11pm.
If you have to get up early for work, you need to go to bed early. Figure on getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep. Though many people will need more. Allow for 10 hours of sleep as often as possible. If you have to be up at 6, you need to get to bed by 10. Most people do not give themselves the rest they need and often push their bodies into adrenal fatigue. Give yourself the best gift you can and get 8-10 hours of sleep. Don’t let all those things creep in, that you think you have to do. Shut off the TV, the computer and even the lights. Shutting out the lights will help to allow your body to produce melatonin, which helps to trigger you to fall asleep. I have a routine around here, where I shut the all the lights out for the most part in my home between 7:30-8pm. If you can, sleep until 7-9 am. This is the time of day that your adrenals have a chance to rest. Normally cortisol levels start to rise rapidly starting at 6 am to 8 am. But often in adrenal fatigue this doesn’t happen as it should. Thus the reason why so many wake up feeling un-rested and need something to get them going. (thus feeding the never ending cycle of adrenal fatigue due to stimulant dependency!) Being tired also feeds into a sugar craving cycle. I know for me personally, my greatest temptation for sugar is when I am tired! A whole ‘nother major reason to fight for your sleep! Sugar dependency will NOT allow you to heal your adrenals.
The urge to urinate at night, or the need to get up to urinate at night is an indicator of low adrenal function as well. You should be able to sleep through your need to urinate until the morning.
What to Do If You Can’t Sleep?
There are a million reasons under the sun why one can have trouble sleeping. However, when your body is functioning optimally, namely your adrenals, it shouldn’t be a problem. If you are someone who wakes between the hours 1-3, consider having a snack before bed. Something with protein and fat, and a little bit of carbohydrate. A handful of nuts, slice of cheese on a seed cracker, apple and peanut butter or even a glass of milk. If you have trouble getting to sleep, try taking melatonin (0.3-1.3mg), a little goes a long way. This is just a short term remedy and it really works. Once you get in the habit of falling asleep on time, you won’t need to supplement. Taking magnesium also helps your body to relax and rest. Depending on your body weight and your deficiency levels the amount needed may vary. You will have to find an amount that works for you. When I first started this approach I needed 800 mg. for a couple of months, now I only take it a few times per week. Try some type of sleepy time or well rested tea. There are several brands out there that are good and really help you to unwind and relax. Avoid stimulants throughout the day, such as coffee, chocolate or anything with caffeine if you are having trouble with your sleep. These interrupt sleep patterns and will increase your morning lows. Even if they are consumed early in the day they can disrupt sleep and make your next morning difficult as well. Try having an 8 pm limit on any screens and lights. This effects your natural melatonin from rising and inducing sleep. Go ahead and help that pineal gland do it’s job of producing melatonin and set the stage for sleep by shutting off all lights and screens in the house by 8 pm as much as possible. Especially when you are trying to retrain your body to sleep well. The herbs hops, catnip, valerian and licorice also can promote sleep – try them in tea form or capsules. Make sure you get some form of exercise in during the day to help you get to sleep better at night. Avoid refined foods, sugars and starches – keep your sugar intake VERY low. The only way to fully heal your adrenals is to regulate your blood sugar. Resist those urges, check out this post of tips to curb sugar cravings.
If all of your efforts are not working you may want to get your cortisol levels tested via saliva samples. Check with your doctor about this. Or check with a local sleep center, as they are specialized in helping people determine the cause of their sleep disturbances!
Stay tuned for more in this series; ’5 Keys to Keeping Your Adrenal Glands Health’. Next week’s topic will cover LIFESTYLE.
Check out this article from Heal Thyself, who has started a 10 PM Bedtime Club!
This post contributed to Monday Mania.