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How High Cortisol and Stress Impact Your Sleep

Posted by Liz Tenuto on

If you find yourself doom-scrolling on social media until you physically can't keep your eyes open at night only to wake up with racing thoughts just 3 hours later, high cortisol levels could be the culprit.

Cortisol, often dubbed the "stress hormone," plays a significant role in your body's response to stress. But when levels remain elevated, especially at night, it can lead to a host of sleep issues. This disruption is deeply connected to nervous system dysregulation, constant stress, and stored trauma, affecting not just your physical health but your mental well-being too.

The Science Behind High Cortisol and Sleep Disruption

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and is part of your body's natural stress response. While it is crucial for survival, enabling you to react swiftly to threats, its elevated levels can be detrimental, especially when it comes to sleep. Cortisol operates on a diurnal rhythm, meaning its levels fluctuate throughout the day—peaking in the morning and tapering off by night. However, chronic stress can disrupt this natural cycle, leading to elevated cortisol levels at night. This imbalance can keep your nervous system in a constant state of alertness, making it difficult to transition into the restful phases of sleep. The result? A cycle of sleep disturbances that can further exacerbate stress and cortisol levels, trapping you in a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and heightened stress.

Symptoms of High Cortisol During Sleep

Experiencing difficulties with sleep due to high cortisol can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Frequent awakenings during the night
  • Non-restorative sleep
  • Waking up between 2-4am 
  • Nightmares or disturbing dreams
  • Feeling exhausted upon waking
  • Sleeping with t-rex arms
  • Night sweats

The Good News: Solving Your Sleep Problems

Fortunately, addressing high cortisol levels and stress can significantly improve your sleep quality!

And by doing so, you unlock a myriad of benefits, including:

  • More energy throughout the day
  • Better quality sleep at night
  • Improved concentration and focus
  • Enhanced mood and emotional stability
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Overall improvement in physical and mental health

Recognizing and addressing the root causes of high cortisol can lead to profound improvements in your sleep and overall quality of life.

Do you want to sleep through the night and have more energy during the day? Get guided through the step by step in 30 days with Release Your Stress and Trauma.