Have you joined the 3-5am club? Basically you wake in the middle of the night starring at the ceiling bright-eyed, tossing and turning, mind active and full of daily tasks ready to start the day? But you know that if you don’t fall back asleep you will be groggy the whole day craving carbs and clumsily dropping things on the floor or tripping up steps? Sleep aids don’t work except for the addictive pharmaceutical drugs that are sure to cause dementia or something devastating with prolonged use. If any of this sounds like you, read on. It may not be sleep aids you need. It may be two little underappreciated, overlooked, walnut-sized glands that are not living up to your daily demands and have basically been worn out over time.
The adrenal glands basically help us to deal with stress in our lives. Too much stress over a long period of time can burn out the adrenals and in many cases cause sleep disorders, weight gain, fatigue and even depression according to Dr. Mercola.(1)
Even though you may not see stress as a factor in your life, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, cycles of fatigue and diet changes may be more stress than your adrenals can handle according to Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP. The adrenals produce many hormones including cortisol which rises with stress levels. Adrenal function can handle short bursts of “emergency-“type stress. They are not built for the daily prolonged stress most women go through. When cortisol isn’t properly produced for our stress levels, we basically run on adrenaline which may cause exhaustion over time among other health issues.(2)
Wendy Myers, CHHC, certified holistic health and nutrition coach and founder of Liveto110.com, breaks down 15 different possible causes of adrenal fatigue including things like chronic dieting, infections, stimulants or excessive exercise. (3)
According to Mayo Clinic, your adrenals glands are responsible for producing many essential hormones. Some symptoms of adrenal insufficiencies may include body aches, fatigue, loss of body hair, low blood pressure, nervousness, digestive issues, and yes, you guessed it, sleep disturbances.(4)
If you have sleep issues, this is one area to consider and talk with your doctor about. There are herbal adrenal support supplements that have been quite effective (often noticeable changes within 24 hrs)! Gaia brand Adrenal Health is an herbal remedy that I have found quite effective. It contains Siberian rhodiola root, holy basil leaf, ashwagandha root, and other adaptogen herbs. Taken after meals, the support tends to give a calming effect to handle stress better and take the burden off of the adrenals.
Dr. Pick has some diet/lifestyle tips for bringing your adrenals back to health:(2)
- Eat larger meals earlier in the day and shorten times between eating
- Heavy exercise is best earlier in the day
- Eat breakfast
- Have healthy snacks available to avoid quick carb fixes
- Lean proteins at meal time will reduce sugar and caffeine cravings
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks
- Include herbal teas such as ginseng, chamomile, passionflower, and valerian root
- Quality sea salt is essential as electrolyte imbalances can occur with adrenal fatigue
- Magnesium provides energy to the adrenal glands
- Vitamins C, E, B
- Calcium and trace minerals for calming effects (zinc, manganese, selenium, iodine)*
- Include adaptogen herbs such as: ashwagandha, eleuthero/siberian ginseng, astragalus root, schisandra, rhodiola rosea, licorice root
If you struggle with sleep as many women do today and you’re tired of people telling you to meditate and do yoga, looking at the adrenals may be a fresh start. Hopefully we will see you at the 8hr club soon.
Please note that this information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult with your doctor or medical professional.
*pepitas (or pumpkin seeds) provide zinc and Brazil Nuts provide selenium, and Kelp powder provides iodine