Have you ever ended the day and just felt exhausted? But couldn’t sleep?
One evening, I came home from the office and felt this exact way. I had still not caught up from a time zone-crossing-travel-stint and, although I adore my patients, I put my heart and soul into each consult and was feeling the pull after a long day.
I took the liberty and I headed to bed early thinking I could pay off some of my sleep debt and get myself restored and rested…and then…just when I was about to fall out…it started! Seemingly out of the blue, my mind started to race. I was thinking of emails I hadn’t gotten to, wondering if I had paid the office rent, how many continuing education credits did I need. I could not believe what was happening! Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts.
I could feel the adrenaline kick in. My heart rate shot up, my eyes opened like a deer’s in headlights and my respirations increased severely. It went on. My body responded in kind and there I was, in a cold sweat and wide-awake. No sleep for me.
This is the phenomenon of inappropriate nocturnal cortisol spikes or in other words, being tired, but wired. My body was exhausted but because I had not “minded the shop” regarding my stressful thoughts that tend to be chronic and overwhelming in this modern day, my mind was still wired and in this case, mind over matter was working against me! They were all there to greet me on my pillow.
Cortisol is our main stress hormone. It is there to help us manage stress, whether it is perceived or real, on all fronts. Cortisol is also the hormone that sets our circadian rhythm, otherwise known as our sleep/ wake cycle. It is high in the morning, allowing us to wake up and greet the day, and it slowly lowers throughout the day to eventually allow restful sleep to happen.
What To Do
We have to do what ever we can to make sure we are “discharging” those thoughts and calming that racing mind through activities like exercise, meditation, time-outs, and recreation on a daily basis! Consistency is the key here in keeping cortisol balanced and in its place at night. Keeping your blood sugar stable by eating small, frequent, nutrient-dense meals can aid in avoiding this experience. Using botanicals known as “adaptogens” like ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract standardized to contain ≥5% withanolides, and rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea) root extract standardized to contain ≥5% rosavins and ≥1.8% salidrosides can be very helpful to support the adrenals during the day and calm the thoughts at night. Increasing the adrenal’s “most valuable” vitamin C to at least three grams a day can be helpful too.
Put your thoughts to rest!
Holly Lucille, ND, RN is the author of Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Women’s Guide to Safe, Natural, Hormone Health. She serves on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Board of Directors and was listed in Time Magazine’s “Alt List” as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People.” For more information, visit www.drhollylucille.com.