Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Did you know that sleep problems can be one of several adrenal fatigue symptoms?  Perhaps it's your hormones that are causing your sleep disruptions or inability to fall asleep. The adrenal glands play an important role in how well we sleep, the maintenance of our energy levels and in the ability to handle stress. 

adrenal fatigue symptoms
I came across Dr. James Wilson's book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome several years ago when a family member was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. Although it was written in 2001 many of the topics and treatments are unchanged.

While most medical facilities recognize the more extreme adrenal disorders like Cushing's Syndrome and Addison's Disease, few medical doctors are aware of this hormone deficiency that falls in the middle.

Common adrenal fatigue symptoms include sleep problems, depression, reduced tolerance for stress, increase in the number of infections, anxiety, sweet cravings, and one often feels cold. 

What Are Adrenal Glands?

The adrenals are glands that sit on top of each kidney and are about the size of a walnut.  Dr. Wilson describes their role this way:

what are adrenal glands

"It is their job to enable your body to deal with stress from every possible source, ranging from injury and disease to work and relationship problems.  Your resiliency, energy, endurance and your very life all depend on their proper functioning."

The adrenal glands are the producers of stress hormones. When a person experiences long term mental and emotional stresses, the adrenal glands continuously produce cortisol resulting in over-worked glands that no longer respond or function normally.

adrenal fatigue symptoms

Cortisol is secreted by the adrenals during other times besides stress.  Exercise, low blood sugar and excitement can kick in this stress hormone.   The highest amounts are secreted in the morning to get us energized and as the day progresses levels decrease.  Those who have an adrenal disorder may experience normal morning levels but then find they become quickly spent or exhausted when their levels plummet due to adrenal exhaustion.  You can learn more about adrenal gland hormones and adrenal fatigue symptoms here:

Adrenal Gland Hormones and Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Hypoadrenia and Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Another name for this hormone disorder is hypoadrenia - which simply means - low in adrenals.  Dr. Wilson reports "that up to 80% of adult Americans suffer some level of adrenal fatigue at some time during their life."  

adrenal fatigue symptoms

A person's hypoadrenia can be mild, moderate or severe.  This syndrome is a combination of signs and symptoms that can vary from person to person.

How do you know if you have hypoadrenia?  Your cortisol levels can be tested by taking a saliva test.  My doctor's office ordered the test and then provided the saliva kit for me.

adrenal fatigue symptoms

At four different times in one day, I needed to spit into the tubes - before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner and before bedtime. Cortisol levels will vary and there are natural spikes and drops in a 24 hour period. Follow the instructions for your kit - but most require that you wash your hands and rinse your mouth before collecting. Do not eat, brush or floss your teeth 30" prior to spitting in the tubes. My first tube had to be collected 30 minutes after awakening. 

After the saliva is collected, the tubes are to be stored in the freezer until they are mailed to the lab.

Your health professional will get the lab results and share them with you along with recommendations for lifestyle, diet and supplements. 

The saliva test that was ordered for me also included testing for other hormones, like estrogen and progesterone.   Again based on the results recommendations were made to normalize these hormone levels.

Adrenal Hormone Test

Hormones and Sleep

Some of the ways this disorder affects sleep are:

1.  Feel tired even after a full night's sleep

2.  Difficulty getting up in the morning

hormones and sleep

3.   Frequently experience insomnia or difficulty sleeping

4.  Trouble winding down and falling asleep

5.   Wake up too early and unable to fall back to sleep

6.   Lack of energy during the day

Besides affecting one's sleep, a person will also find that they are more irritable and unable to to handle stress as well as they used to. They may feel more anxious or overwhelmed. There are many different causes of this hormone imbalance, such as food allergies, extreme exercise, emotional stress, and a a non-stop schedule. 

adrenal fatigue symptoms

Ask your health practitioner about a saliva test that will test your adrenal secretions at four different times throughout a 24 hour period.

Adrenal Fatigue Supplements

Adrenal fatigue supplements should be taken only after you've had some testing done.  Our natural cortisol pattern should be highest in the morning and lowest at bedtime.

adrenal fatigue supplements

Some people have too little cortisol in the morning when it should be high, causing them to be tired when they wake up and others have too much cortisol in the evening and bedtime which can prevent one from falling and staying asleep.

Diet and Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Diet plays a role in supporting healthy adrenals.  Most practitioners recommend a diet high in vegetables and healthy fats and protein while avoiding foods that are processed or have refined sugar. 

While on your healing journey one should also avoid alcohol, caffeine and foods that trigger allergies or sensitivities.

adrenal fatigue symptoms and food sensitivities

Getting to sleep by 10:00 PM is also important to avoid being awake during an adrenal spike that can give a person that "second wind."

My problem later in life was falling asleep and being wound up at night. I found that as bed time approaches I am much more relaxed and getting that "sleepy" feeling back which means most of the time I now fall asleep quickly. Check with your functional medicine doctor to find out what tests are best for you.

Awareness of how hormones can affect one's sleep can be the beginning of a new journey towards health and a well rested body.

Blood Sugar and Cortisol Connection

Did you know that the adrenal glands regulate blood sugar? Dr. Alan Christianson, author of The Adrenal Reset Diet: Strategically Cycle Carbs and Proteins to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, and Move from Stressed to Thriving writes, "When your blood sugar drops, cortisol rises to rescue you, so you don’t go into a coma. That is a good thing, but it isn’t helpful when you’re trying to sleep.
It’s so much better when you don’t need your blood sugar rescued in the middle of the night. I’ve checked many patients with a device that measures their blood sugar while they’re sleeping. Many times, they’ve told me something like, “I often wake up at 2:00 a.m., and my mind is racing. I’m in a sudden state of panic.” Then, when we look at their blood sugar log, that was right when it plummeted! It’s very common for a blood sugar drop to disrupt sleep."

Caffeine and Cortisol

It's not just the caffeine that can interfere with sleep, it's having elevated cortisol levels at night when they should be low.

"Coffee inhibits cortisol reduction. Some people are more sensitive to it, so it makes their nervous system more responsive to cortisol. It would be incorrect and oversimplified to say coffee raises cortisol, but if you have it in your body, it’s harder to lower your own cortisol levels, " writes Alan Christianson, The Adrenal Reset Diet: Strategically Cycle Carbs and Proteins to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, and Move from Stressed to Thriving

Find ways to lower your cortisol levels at night so that your body can begin to calm down and prepare for deep sleep. For me it was giving up my coffee and switching to herbal caffeine free coffee by Teeccino. 

Teeccino Coffee Variety Pack (Vanilla Nut, Hazelnut, Chocolaté, French Roast) Chicory Herbal Tea Bags, Caffeine Free, Acid Free, 10 Count (Pack of 4)

Don't let your adrenal fatigue symptoms continue to sabotage your sleep. Get your adrenal hormones tested and begin a plan to recover normal adrenal function. 

Go from Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms to What Causes Insomnia

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