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The Importance of Sleep with Adrenal Fatigue


February 12, 2019 | Published by

Along with diet and regular exercise, getting a healthy night’s sleep is an essential component of living a healthy life. Lack of sleep is a common sign of adrenal fatigue and can also have a significant impact on your health.

Chronic lack of sleep is now regarded as a health hazard and has been associated with several health conditions, including decreased immunity with increased susceptibility to infections, impaired glucose tolerance and decreased morning cortisol levels that cause cravings for carbohydrates even when enough calories have been consumed.

Not getting enough sleep can also increase circulating estrogen levels, upsetting hormonal balance. This is in addition to the decreased alertness and concentration that most people experience when not getting the proper amount of rest.

There can be several reasons for sleeplessness with adrenal fatigue. Both too high and too low night time cortisol levels can cause sleep disturbances. To determine if this is a problem for you, consult with your healthcare practitioner about taking a saliva cortisol test. This test will compare your night time cortisol levels with your daytime levels along with the test standards for those times.

To do the night test, you’ll give a saliva sample at bedtime, another if you wake up during the night and a third when you wake up in the morning. You’ll then write the time each sample was taken on the vial and in a notebook on a separate sheet of paper. If cortisol is the culprit, your cortisol levels will be significantly higher or lower than normal for those times.

If you are waking between 1:00 and 3:00 AM, your liver may be lacking the glycogen reserves needed for conversion by the adrenals to keep blood glucose levels high enough during the night. Blood sugar is normally low during the early morning hours, but if you have adrenal fatigue and low cortisol, your blood glucose levels may sometimes fall so low that low blood sugar symptoms wake you during the night.

This is often the case if you experience panic or anxiety attacks, nightmares, or sleep fitfully between 1:00 and 4:00 AM. If your night time cortisol levels are too low, you may sleep better when you exercise in the evening, as exercise tends to raise cortisol levels.

If your nighttime cortisol levels are too high, try a relaxation or meditation exercise to calm down before going to bed. The yoga pose called the alternate leg pull can be quite helpful in getting to sleep or returning to sleep.

This is a basic yoga posture that almost any yoga book or video will describe, but an instructor is preferable as there is some subtlety to doing this posture. There’s an abundance of free high-quality videos on YouTube that focus on yoga and meditation for stress and anxiety.

If you have adrenal fatigue, it’s important to be in bed and asleep before your second wind hits at about 11:00 PM. Riding the second wind and staying up until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning will further exhaust the adrenals.

Though you may feel more energetic during that time than you have felt all day, these few hours of energy will cost you the following day when you feel lethargic and tired. In order to avoid this pitfall, be in bed and on your way to sleep before 10:30 PM, so that your adrenal glands do not have a chance to kick into overdrive for that second wind.

A common stumbling block for adrenal fatigue sufferers is that morning cup of coffee. Caffeine temporarily drives the adrenal glands, which further depletes adrenal reserves. As a result, you experience repeated sugar and caffeine cravings throughout the day to jack up your flagging energy, causing a roller coaster blood sugar effect.

By mid-afternoon or the end of the day, you’ll end up completely exhausted and in need of sleep. You will therefore do better and sleep better by eliminating caffeine and instead try drinking water salted to taste (approximately 1/8-1/4 tsp. of sea or Celtic salt in a glass of water).

Of course you should also greatly limit sweet and sugary foods and support adrenal function and steady blood sugar with frequent small snacks and meals containing protein, complex carbs and good quality fats (see Eating for Stress).

Sleep is extremely important to full adrenal recovery, but the twist is that sleeplessness is sometimes one of the signs of adrenal fatigue. These tips can help address common sleep problems those with adrenal fatigue experience and enhance their adrenal replenishment. Insuring you’re getting the recommending 8-9 hours of sleep daily can greatly improve your attitude, energy levels, and overall health!


Wilson, James L. Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Petaluma: Smart Publications, 2001. Print.

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  • Peter Heil says:

    I have had a saliva test and have low cortisol levels. I am experiencing problems getting to sleep/getting enough sleep. Which product do you recommend?



    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Peter,

      For comprehensive support, we generally recommend Dr. Wilson’s full Adrenal Fatigue Protocol. If you’re looking to start with one to try, we’d recommend the Herbal Adrenal Support Formula. It helps provide adrenal support but also can help with sleep as well.

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