Sleep is vital for so many functions including protecting our mitochondria/DNA/brain from damage via the hormone melatonin which is a very powerful antioxidant. Happy mitochondria give us all the internal energy we need to keep us vital and healthy.
Sleep also helps clear cellular debris, repair/replace old cells, bring down inflammation, and generate neurotransmitters. But what if you wake up dead tired?
Sleep issues and chronic stress can dampen the morning release of cortisol or something called the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR). If you wake extremely fatigued or need caffeine or other stimulants to get your cortisol levels to rise, CAR might be an issue for you.
As you get closer to waking up and light enter your eyes, the adrenals “wake up” and release cortisol. It is so vital that almost 50% is released within the first 30 minutes. Why so important? First, cortisol reduces inflammation so we can react quickly for our survival. Second, blood sugar quickly rises to allow us to function after the long night’s fast. Third and most important, cortisol also allows thymus glands to check/remove any unhealthy immune cells so as not to help induce an autoimmune condition.
For some of us cortisol is not released as expected and symptoms such as inflammation and fatigue may be especially worse in the am (or at night when cortisol is naturally low). In addition to stress, a SAD diet, medications (such as steroids), brain trauma, etc., can contribute factors.
You may want to employ the strategies listed below to help bring up early morning cortisol levels (while working on underlying cause).
- Exposure yourself to outdoor sunlight or light therapy as soon as possible upon wakening to help reset your circadian rhythm. Light filtering through windows doesn’t count as it also filters out some of the spectrum. Outdoor grey overcast light can still provide some healthy light.
- Partake in gentle exercise upon waking.
- Improve blood flow to brain with exercise and/or supplements.
- Activate your vagus nerve.
- Avoid fluorescent light as it suppresses cortisol. If you look at its pattern, much of the spectrum is missing. Please consider using full spectrum lights or a light box to naturally raise morning cortisol levels.
Consider a 10 to 30 minute brisk walk first thing in the morning. You can hum or sing to exercise the vagus nerve while you walk to double the rewards!