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How Cortisol Affects Your Sleep

Updated: Oct 14, 2021




High AND low cortisol can cause you to wake up at night.


Many of my clients have high cortisol at night.


High cortisol in the middle of the night causes you to wake up and have a hard time falling back asleep.


Reasons for high cortisol in the night:

  • Pathogens in the gut (parasites, candida, H. pylori)

If you have a gut infection, those creatures are most active at night. So in the middle of the night, they’re eating, excreting and releasing toxins, which causes lots of inflammation. Cortisol comes to the rescue as an anti-inflammatory hormone, but it also wakes you up. The most common reason I find my clients wake up at 3am is because they have a gut pathogen.

When your blood sugar levels drop too low during the night, your body releases cortisol to raise your blood sugar, causing you to feel wired and awake. This is another common reason why many of my clients wake up in the night and have a hard time falling back asleep.


High cortisol at bedtime can cause difficulty falling asleep, anxiety and getting a second wind at night.


Reasons for high cortisol at bedtime:

Eating foods you are sensitive to causes low-grade inflammation, day and night. Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory hormone and so it comes to the rescue to deal with that inflammation.

If you’re worried about anything- money, relationships, the world, your sleep-your cortisol will be high at night.

LOW cortisol can also make you wake up at night!


Some of my clients don’t have high cortisol at night. Their cortisol levels are low all the time, day and night


So what’s making them wake up? Here are some possibilities:


  • Low blood sugar: Your body needs cortisol to release glycogen and raise blood sugar levels when they get too low. If cortisol is too low, then your body resorts to epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine instead. Those fight or flight hormones make you wake up with your heart beating fast and your mind racing.

  • Serotonin is supposed to convert to melatonin. Low cortisol can stop that conversion and then low melatonin can cause sleep difficulties.

  • Other health imbalances such as heavy metal toxicity, mineral imbalances and low progesterone can also make you wake up at night.


The only way to find out what’s causing you to wake up at night is to do functional lab testing. These tests show what’s going on in your body so we know what to address.


It’s testing instead of guessing.


Book a free call with me to find out how I can uncover what’s keeping you awake at night so you can sleep better soon.



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