Or should I say victory over Cortisol.
I could not figure out why I was having such a hard time falling asleep and why I seemed to be perpetually cranky. I wasn’t any more stressed than usual and was eating well and getting plenty of exercise. Maybe too much exercise?
Our bodies produce cortisol during times of stress (e.g., fight-or-flight) and prolonged periods of intense exercise (hello Orange Theory). Ongoing stress can lead to adverse effects from elevated cortisol levels in the body. Some of these effects include anxiety, sleeplessness, weight gain, and moodiness. I unfortunately was experiencing all of them. 😒
My previous work anxiety, frequent intense exercise sessions without adequate rest or recovery, and my perpetual state of learned stress—too common in the U.S. today—were likely resulting in high cortisol levels. I could have gone to the doctor to confirm, but am not a big fan of needles, so I focused on reducing stress first to see if that worked.
I made a conscious decision to take deep breaths throughout the day, to mediate for 5-10 minutes each morning, and to replace some more intense exercise sessions with yoga. These small changes would hopefully lower my cortisol production and levels over time. After all, a potential long-term benefit of regular meditation is reduced cortisol levels.
While my breathing and mindfulness improved, I still had lingering feelings of stress and anxiousness after a few weeks, so I needed to take it up a notch. I began taking Ashwaghanda—the last step in my self-diagnosis plan before seeing a doctor. I learned that the supplement Ashwaghanda is an adaptogen, meaning it can work with your body to decrease cortisol levels, which explains why it takes 10+ days to start seeing effects. After about two weeks, I was finally sleeping better and feeling less moody.
After taking Ashwaghanda for two months, my stress became manageable and no longer affected my health in noticeable ways. I have since stopped taking the supplement as I don’t want to take it for the rest of my life, but am thankful that I know it works in case I need to take it again.
Do you have any miraculous tips that have helped you get good sleep? If so, please share with us below.