Suffering From Insomnia? Why Your Adrenals Need A Break!

When was the last time you had a solid, eight hours or more, of an uninterrupted night of sleep? 

Sounds glorious, doesn't it?

I don't know about you, but when I get eight hours of sleep I feel like a million bucks! Sadly, I still intermittently struggle with sleep, but it's must better than it was a few short years ago.

During the height of overtraining, I struggled to get even five hours of sleep. It was painful, frustrating and exhausting. 

Every morning, I routinely was at the gym, or out for a run at 6 am. So I had to get up at 5 am so that I'd have enough time to get some food in my belly to fuel my workout and wait for the ever elusive morning poop (if you workout, you know why this was important!).

To be sure I was getting enough sleep, I always made sure I was in bed by 9 pm. I never had any problems falling asleep. But, like clockwork, I'd wake up at 1 am, and then toss and turn for hours. Some nights I was able to fall back asleep around 4 am, only to have to wake up an hour later. Other nights, I never was able to fall back asleep. 

I don't care how clean you eat, or how often you workout if you don't get enough sleep, you feel lousy!

I was functioning on just four hours of sleep a night and still pushed myself through strenuous daily workouts.

It's no wonder I killed my adrenals.

The “fight or flight” syndrome – you’ve heard of it, right? 

Imagine being chased by a saber-tooth tiger. Fight or flight.

Realistically, we're not chased by mountain lions, but we often put ourselves in situations where our bodies often have to react as if we're fighting for our lives.

Our adrenal glands, located on top of each kidney. They are repeatedly forced to work in overdrive to deal with stress from all kinds of sources. Daily stressors like toxicity from foods like sugar, toxicity from the environment like chemicals in the air, in household products and cleaners, traffic, too much exercise, etc. As well as higher level stressors like injury, disease, work, relationships with family and friends, finances, and more.

It’s hard to imagine these small endocrine glands, mostly the size of a walnut, are responsible for manufacturing and secreting vital hormones like cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone. 

Cortisol production is crucial for your body to combat stress. 

When chased by a mountain lion is a stressor you either outrun the predator and survive or are eaten alive, but happens during a set timeframe. In contrast, the stress we deal with daily is a constant, permanent state of being for so many of us.

Although not getting along with a boss or missing a bill payment are not life-threatening like being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, our body's reaction is the same. 

Your body first starts to feel unsettled. 

Then it produces more cortisol because your body believes it needs massive amounts of energy to survive. It's a process that repeatedly happens throughout the day from situations like: 

  • Completing your run/workout in time to refuel with breakfast, shower and get ready for work and out the door on time
  • Getting the kids to school before the first bell
  • Traffic 
  • Spilling coffee in the car
  • Your assistant calling in sick and you’ve got a full day's schedule
  • The babysitter being late picking up the kids from school and taking them to soccer practice
  • Your late afternoon meeting runs over, so you leave the office late, get stuck in traffic, and your family's dinner becomes fast food. 

And all this is going to happen again tomorrow!

It's a problem when chronic stress overloads your adrenal glands to the point of exhaustion. 

For some, the fatigue is overwhelming, and their adrenals can no longer function correctly to provide the energy and resources their body needs on a day-to-day basis. 

When someone is exhausted, the logical suggestion is to get more sleep. But, as I know, this is not always easy with adrenal problems because insomnia is a common symptom of depleted adrenals. 

There are, however, steps you can take to prepare yourself for better sleep so that you can refresh and rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit.

For better sleep and to heal your adrenal glands:

  1. Go to bed at the same time every night between 10-10:30 pm.
  2. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and sugar in late afternoon/evening (or remove them completely from your diet to prevent any rollercoaster-like blood sugar surges).
  3. Keep your blood sugar balanced by eating clean protein and healthy fats.
  4. Keep a  journal near your bedside. Every night, list five things for which you are grateful. Remind yourself that even though you may feel fatigued, there are beautiful aspects of your life and many reas ons to heal.

Some argue that adrenal fatigue isn't real.

But for the many of us who suffer from it, the symptoms are real. We don't need an insurance company to provide a code to quantify a diagnosis to consider it "real."

The symptoms are real. The suffering is real. We live with it daily, but the good news is that there are lifestyle changes that we have control over to help us recover and feel better from hypoadrenia.

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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at:  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.